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Holden plant closures timed with Toyota and Ford

Next phase: Once Cruze production ends in October this year, Holden will introduce the new-generation Astra five-door hatch to fill the small car void.

Holden MD says manufacturing closure may be timed with Toyota for suppliers’ sake

Holden logo15 Aug 2016

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

GM HOLDEN has confirmed that it intends to enter talks with Toyota in the near future about dovetailing the end of Australian production of the Commodore and Caprice with the Camry and Aurion, to better suit the suppliers who service both companies.

For the same reasons, Holden has also admitted that it deliberately chose to cease production of the outgoing Cruze small car on the same day that Ford Australia ends vehicle manufacturing on Friday, October 7.

While talks have yet to officially commence between Holden and Toyota, full vehicle manufacturing in Australia is still on track to end in the final quarter of next year.

“I haven’t had any discussion with (Toyota) at all,” Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard told GoAuto at the launch of the facelifted Colorado pick-up in Queensland last week. “You’re talking about a period that is a little bit less than 18 months away, so it’s so far out into the future.

“We will talk to them. It’s incumbent on both of us to make sure there is an orderly wind down through the supply base and for the industry. And at the same time, it’s up to both of us to make sure we look after the customer and customer demands.” Mr Bernhard said it is in the best interests for all concerned to ease the pain of the closures as much as possible, hence the decision to align the end of Cruze production with Ford’s.

“We knew the Ford date obviously,” he said. “But that timing also suits us. It’s good from a supplier perspective… so it helps them in terms of the way they ramp volumes, and the way they manage their workforce as well. There are synergies from a supply base.”

Mr Bernhard added that October’s Cruze line closure also happened to fit in perfectly with the timing of the next-generation Astra.

“That is the right timing for the product as we lead in towards the Astra launch,” Mr Bernhard said. “It gives us time to run out before we get Astras into the marketplace, into dealerships, and ready for customers.”

Asked if Holden intends to learn from the way Ford handles its shut-down in order to improve its manufacturing exit strategy, Mr Bernhard said that there are already many examples in the industry, and that the company should concentrate on transitioning the best way it can.

“I think we are in a complex industry,” he said. “I think we can learn from our own internal mistakes. And I think we can learn just as well from what we do really, really well. And then we can look around the industry here in Australia, and we can also look globally as to what works, what the trends are.

The world is becoming much smaller in a digital age. And so a lot of the trends flow across borders now.”

Despite a senior company executive letting slip late last year that October’s Astra hatch would be joined in 2017 by the next-generation Cruze sedan as Holden’s sedan/hatch sales assault on the small-car market, Mr Bernhard would not confirm the strategy, let alone the latter’s pending timing and specification for Australia, stating that he is busy enough with this year’s launch of the Colorado and Astra, and the facelifted Trax small SUV.

“We haven’t announced whether the new Cruze is coming… and I’m not here today to speculate,” he said. “That gets into (the fact that) we have so many announcements to make over the next six months.”

As we’ve reported previously, the Astra hatch will replace the Cruze hatch in the first instance, while supplementing the more expensive Sport coupes based on the previous PJ-series Astra launched last year, to give the brand ammunition against the likes of the best-selling Mazda3.

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