Holden could have saved its factory on its own, according to company insiders.General Motors-owned Holden recently shut down its factory in Adelaide, Australia, dissolving the nation's car manufacturing sector after nearly a century of activity. Holden insiders claim they saw the writing on the wall and tried to save the brand's factory, but their efforts were stymied by GM.Notably, Holden wanted to build an SUV on the rear-wheel drive Zeta platform, which underpinned the Commodore and the Chevrolet SS, among other models. This was in the mid-2000s; consumers were progressively ditching sedans for SUVs, and rival Ford had already entered the segment with the Territory.
"Ford made a really good decision around Territory. We looked at cars exactly like that way back on Zeta and the GM leadership at the time said no. They said, 'we can do these better and more efficiently because they are the types of cars we do, off North American architectures rather than the Zeta architecture,'" an insider told Australian publication Motoring.
The model GM promised never reached showrooms, and Holden settled for taking on the Territory with a jacked-up station wagon named Adventra that looked like a Subaru Outback in a trucker hat.
"If [the SUV] had been allied with the Zeta architecture or something that we manufactured in Adelaide, then Adelaide wouldn't have had the volume issues and the productivity issues and the cost issues it had," opined the insider.
It's interesting to note the Territory failed to save Ford's Australian operation even though it was a surprisingly popular model that's still a common sight on Australian roads. The Blue Oval shut down its only factory in Australia a year ago.
Motoring also learned GM shot down plans for smaller, rear-wheel drive car positioned a notch below the Commodore. And, the brand never received permission to export its own cars outside of Australia; the only Holden models sold overseas in recent memory wore a Pontiac, a Chevrolet, or a Vauxhall emblem.
The damning report concludes Holden tried to save itself on its own but GM intentionally kept its head under the water. The company hasn't shut its doors, but it has been demoted from a car manufacturer with its own design and R&D departments to merely an importer that peddles rebadged Opel and Chevrolet models.
GM hasn't publicly responded to the report so we haven't gotten its side of the story yet. We'll update this article if and when officials issue a response.
Photo by Ronan Glon.