GM Special Vehicles rises from the ashes of Holden in Australia
Launch of new GM SV brand ruffles feathers of disgruntled Holden dealers.
The Peak industry body representing franchised new car dealers in Australia has lashed out at the news that General Motors will launch a new special vehicles brand in Australia, just months after axing the iconic Holden brand.
“The launch of GMSV poses many questions and it seems unthinkable that shortly after ruthlessly dismantling the Holden Dealer network GM can simply be allowed to launch a new brand,” said Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) CEO James Voortman.
The AADA has been a vocal critic of the way the Holden closure has been managed by GM, and in particular what it claims has been inadequate compensation packages offered to the brand’s former dealers.
A Senate inquiry into General Motors’ Holden’s Operations in Australia held its first public hearings on 3 August and is due to hand down its report on 12 November.
Despite the ongoing Senate inquiry, GM confirmed the launch of a new entity dubbed GM Speciality Vehicles (GMSV) for the Australian and New Zealand markets.
An official statement said the new start-up venture was scheduled to start operations in the fourth quarter of this year, supplying a selection of GM vehicles to customers in both markets.
“I am proud to be announcing GM Specialty Vehicles which represents an important new investment by GM in Australia,” said Kristian Aquilina, Interim Chairman and Managing Director of GM Holden.
“This new venture directly adds sales, marketing and after-sales roles to GM’s 200-strong presence in Australia, and indirectly supports over 150 skilled engineering and manufacturing jobs at our partner in Victoria.”
That partner is the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, which formerly manufactured Holden Special Vehicles and now operates a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Melbourne, specialising in the importation and conversion of Chevy and RAM pickups for the Australian and New Zealand markets.
“The initial product line-up will feature the latest Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ (pictured), with other derivatives, including the Silverado 2500 and spectacular mid-engine Corvette anticipated to follow in 2021,” Mr Aquilina said.
The Chevrolet Silverado models will be remanufactured to right-hand-drive (RHD) by the Walkinshaw organisation, while the new Corvette will come to Australia and New Zealand in RHD directly out of the famous Bowling Green plant in Kentucky, USA.
GMSV continues GM’s long association with the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, said Joanne Stogiannis, who has been appointed to the role of Director – GM Specialty Vehicles.
“It is especially pleasing given their long track record with GM via HSV and the fact that GMSV can continue to draw on their renowned automotive engineering expertise,” Ms Stogiannis said.
An experienced automotive professional with a diverse career spanning over 20 years with GM in Australia, Ms Stogiannis has worked with several international GM divisions and has broad sales and marketing experience.
“I am thrilled to be leading a new automotive venture by GM in Australia,” she said.
“Sales of large US pickups have been growing consistently and I believe the ongoing strength of that segment will provide a very solid basis for us to build a successful long-term business.
“The plan to bring the stunning new mid-engine Corvette in RHD direct from the factory is an enormously exciting opportunity for local performance car enthusiasts.”
Ryan Walkinshaw, Director of the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, said the company was delighted to continue its 33-year association with GM through the new venture GMSV.
“It also means we’re able to keep significant automotive employment in Victoria, directly securing some 150 manufacturing jobs, and look to grow as we work with GM in this dynamic space,” Mr Walkinshaw said.
“We have always enjoyed bringing exciting product to market, and we’re excited about the ability to continue that through our partnership with GMSV.”
The AADA meanwhile, remains incensed about the new development, with Mr Voortman calling for GM to be called back to the Senate inquiry to answer more questions.
“GM remains in dispute with a number of dealers and most who have settled did so under duress, accepting the inadequate compensation on offer,” he said.
“Even a last-minute request from the Federal Government to settle the dispute through arbitration was rebuffed by GM.
“GM has burned so much goodwill after taking so much from Australian taxpayers, yet they are about to start another business.
“It is important to get to the bottom of these issues as GM will have significant liabilities in Australia for many years to come.
“There are 1.6 million Holdens on our roads, the second most of any brand. The Government needs assurances that General Motors has set aside funds to honour consumer law obligations, pay warranty claims, complete safety recalls and supply vehicle parts.
When the closure of the Holden brand was announced in February, a statement from GM International Operations said the company would honour all warranties and servicing offers made at the time of sale, and continue to provide servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years through its national aftermarket sales network in Australia and New Zealand.
The organisation also committed to handling any recalls or safety-related issues if they arise.