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Holden’s proving ground to get a spruce up
Seal of approval: Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground turns 60 next year, and thanks to renovations, should have an assured future.
Renovation rescue signals long-term future for Holden’s Lang Lang test facility
29 February 2016
BACK from a near-death experience in 2013, Holden's Lang Lang proving ground is
to get a 60th-birthday makeover in an apparent vote of confidence in the future
of Australian car engineering by parent company General Motors.
The multi-million-dollar overhaul will include a new emissions testing lab and
bitumen resealing works for the massive circular 4.7km high-speed banked loop,
both of which are critical to vehicle powertrain calibration work at the 877
Built for the proving ground’s opening in 1957, the loop is believed to have
been last resealed in 1992 at a cost of $1.2 million.
Although there is no suggestion that the American giant will revive the
ground-up vehicle development role that GM Holden once held, the work to
address deterioration at the ageing but still-valuable car test facility in
Victoria means it can at least see a future for Holden Engineering's
contribution to global GM products.
GM announced in late 2013 that the proving ground and associated engineering
operation would be closed along with Holden's factories in South Australia and
Victoria in the wake of the American parent company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy in
the global financial crisis.
But in May 2014, GM International president Stefan Jacoby announced a reprieve
for the proving ground, about an hour's drive south-east of Melbourne, although
50 of the 150 staff based there would be made redundant.
Many of the workers let go were test drivers employed to rack up thousands of
kilometres in durability testing – a function mostly associated with local
vehicle development – and mechanics who maintained those cars.
Many Holden insiders hope that Australia, with its skilful automotive
engineering workforce, will regain a larger role in GM's vehicle development
program over time.
Holden's once formidable array of engineering skills have been dissipated with
the dismissal of 700 engineers who produced locally developed vehicles for
Australian manufacture, but the remaining team of about 200 engineers and
technicians spread between Lang Lang and Holden’s Port Melbourne engineering
centre still provide services for global sister brands such as Opel and
Chevrolet, as well as doing local chassis tuning for Australian conditions.
One of the major remaining operations is powertrain calibration – a skill honed
at Holden since the days of local Family 2 four-cylinder engine production and
export program in the 1980s.
GM last year announced that powertrain calibration testing for global models
will be done at the proving ground, for GM sister brands such as Opel and
As well, chassis engineers who did the global suspension tuning for the
Chevrolet/Holden Trax are continuing to refine new models, recently working on
the upcoming Spark light hatchback and facelifted Colorado ute and Colorado 7
ahead of the release of these models this year.
Holden says the team will be kept busy working on many of the 24 new models to
be launched by Holden by 2020.
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