GM Rumored To Leave Australia, Sell Holden Importation Business

General Motors stopped making cars in Australia more than a year ago but may not be done with the restructuring of its operations Down Under.

Since then, GM has focused on applying painful restructuring measures in the United States. However, a recent report from AFR suggests the U.S. automaker isn’t done fixing its Australian operations.

As GM is now reduced to being a car importer in Australia, reports have emerged that the carmaker is considering an externalization of its importing activities to the country’s biggest car importer and distributor, UK-based Inchcape Motors.

The company is the exclusive importer and distributor of Subaru vehicles in Australia and New Zealand. Inchcape’s retail unit is called Trivett and represents 14 automotive brands including Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Peugeot, Citroën, Subaru, and Volkswagen.

Why the move could make sense

So why would Inchcape be interested in adding Holden to its portfolio? To put it simply, it would take the company’s business to another level, while reportedly costing it less to do so than GM. Holden had revenue of $1.86 billion in 2017, with an estimated $1.78 billion for 2018. Currently, it holds a 6.5 percent share of the Australian market.

As reported by Australia’s Whichcar, Inchcape would continue to import Holden-badged cars directly from GM, but at a lower cost:

“For example, fees for back-office functions and other work are paid by Holden back to its parent company, and Inchcape would be able to sidestep these all together, which should mean cheaper vehicles. Inchcape may also have greater right-hand-drive sales potential for GM due to its presence in the UK market, and rumoured interest in South Africa. All are right-hand drive markets.” says Whichcar. 

The report claims bilateral discussions have progressed slowly between the two sides so far. Unnamed sources suggested Inchcape hired one of the big four accounting firms to check the numbers. If the report is accurate, it remains to be seen whether Inchcape is interested in a merger and acquisition type of deal or a joint venture.

We contacted GM about the issue and received a neutral statement via email from a company spokesperson, which is open to interpretation:

“Under the leadership of Dave Buttner, who was appointed in August last year, we are turning around the Holden business, growing sales, re-engaging and re-energizing our distribution network and launching exciting vehicles like the all-new Acadia. We are fully focused on supporting Dave in building a strong Holden for the future, as it remains an important part of GM’s business.”

  • f1300

    Interesting. So Holden, which was mostly Opel-based, get’s out of GM’s hands and skips to Inchcape Motors, who already sells the cars of Opels new owner, Peugeot and Citroen…

  • Ilbirs

    I still believe that there’s something untold about GM’s financial shape and this possibility about Holden seems to me just another chapter of a story that previously had Opel/Vauxhall’s sale to PSA, closure of South African and Indian operations, winding down the Brazilian product development center and saying in NA that it’d keep its conventional passenger car lineup just to say after some months that would discontinue a lot of these passenger cars.

  • mihsf

    Surprise! Not

  • Alex

    Given how GM is running out of cars to badge as Holden after selling off Opel, this move doesnt seem very surprising. I suspect the “new” cars will be Opel again, ie from the new French owners via this company.

    • neil

      That’s what I was thinking, especially as the report says Inchcape already imports PSA’s other brands, Peugeot and Citroën.

  • designer_dick

    If they do sell to Inchcape, I’d imagine the new owners would be able to craft whatever kind of range they want, with small-medium cars sourced from PSA-owned Opel, and large SUVs from GM’s American brands.

  • Zandit75

    When GM sold Opel/Vauxhall, the writing was on the way for Holden, but I was expecting it to be either closed down completely, or rebadged to perhaps Chevrolet, not sold off to another importer altogether.
    Holden’s sales are tanking with no market leader in any car class.

    • mihsf

      Perhaps with higher-quality PSA-sourced vehicles, Holden could sell more than now. With AWD thanks to hybrid, that would be enough for many Aussies. One issue would still be large SUVs and utes – things PSA doesn’t have.

      • LeStori

        Once Holden was number 1 seller of cars in Australia followed typically by Ford.In 2018 Toyota was number 1

        1) Toyota
        2) Mazda
        3) Hyundai
        4) Mitsubishi
        5) Ford
        6) Holden

        Cannot see Holden moving up from here. Ford has better marketing and models and they have dropped to number 5. And they were smart enough not to call their Mondeo a Falcon unlike Holden which tried to sell their smaller Mondeo compeitor as a large family Holden Commodore.

        • mihsf

          As an importer, Holden and Ford cannot remain top sellers as they were before. They could, however, be again on the podium, were their products adapted to what Australians want (price, quality, marketing, etc). GM isn’t trying much things to sell Holdens because it does not make much sense economically (RHD). Ford and Toyota, on the other hand, have many RHD models. Ford could regain its former market share. Holden won’t with GM.
          However, I see many similiraties with Europe. Once very powerful, both Ford and Opel/Holden have lost market share and seen their sales decrease in the past 25 years in Europe and Australia. Poor management, sometimes questionable quality, sometimes questionable interior or exterior designs. Many brands also suffered from that Europe but have since partly recovered. Neither Opel nor Ford. In Ford’s European line-up, no car is class-leading, no car is attractive (Focus excepted with all its technology and ok design). It seems they are just trying to remain relevant.

          • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

            Eh? The fiesta, Focus and Mondeo are consistently rated at the top of their class. The Ranger is probably the best truck in that segment.
            Also It wasn’t that long ago that Mitsubishi was considered dead and buried in Australia and now they are 4th, despite a very average range of vehicle. So it isn’t impossible for Holden to claw back at all. Not saying it will be easy, but people are far too quick to write them off.

          • mihsf

            I highly doubt that Ford models are consistently “rated at the top of their class” aside of Focus. Not bad, but not particularly good either, and mostly not attractive. In the past people bought Fords thanks to their qualities, now because of the price. Look at the difference between a very stylish 1996 Ford Ka and a cheap imported third-world 2019 Ford Ka+.

            Ford of Europe sales in the 1990s: up to 1 600 000 cars a year.
            Since 2015: 1 000 000 a year.
            Ford is losing in brand image. Same for Opel and Holden with GM, they have had the same issues for the last 25 years.

          • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

            Well do some basic research. Ford’s passenger cars have been at the top of their game for the last 2 generations. Those are the facts. Sure there are stuff like the Ka and the Ecosport which don’t come up to Ford’s own standards, but Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo have always been no1. What you are espousing is simply opinion. Automotive journalists and road testers have consistently rated Fords.

          • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

            Here’s the latest example, where the Focus is better than the new A class Mercedes.
            https://www.carmagazine.co.uk/best/hatchbacks/

  • GT

    Surpised they didn’t sell the brand to PSA with Opel. PSA probably said no not even for free.

  • WHEN A THIRD PARTY CAN SELL THE CARS CHEAPER THAT SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT HOW DISORGANIZED THEY ARE AT GM.

    • LeStori

      No need to shout. Only the deluded would think that GM was well run. They panicked when the Australian dollar was untraditionally high and approaching parity with the US dollar. Now with the US dollar being worth 1.41 Australian Dollars they are an importer. Good luck with that because whilst people bought Holdens because they thought all Holdens , including imported ones, were made in Asutralia, now they know they re all imported.

  • LeStori

    Ínchape was the importer of Alfa Romeo a few years ago in Australia. Not a happy experience for me .

    • Mr_Fanta_Pants

      That was ATECO.

  • mihsf

    *Acadia

  • Jessi Miley-Diabetes

    It’s over. The Holden badge should die.

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