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Opel-badged Holdens could return en masse

Speculation: The next Astra (current model pictured) could return to Australia as a Holden.

German workplace deal could see Opel make “tens of thousands” of Holden-badged cars

3 Feb 2014

A DEAL brokered with German car-making unions appears to have paved the way for Holden-badged Opel cars to return to the Australian market within the next few years.

The German-language newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung yesterday reported that union officials involved in workplace talks with the car-maker had revealed its factories were gearing up to produce vehicles for the Australian market.

The report says the agreement also places a freeze on any redundancies at the Opel factories in Rüsselsheim, Eisenach and Kaiserslautern until after Holden shutters its Australian car-making operations in 2017.

It adds that union officials involved in striking Opel’s new wage deal cum jobs guarantee had said the German production lines would build right-hand-drive Holden and – strangely – Buick models “especially for export to Australia”.

The report says that the number of units slated to be sent here is expected to be in the “tens of thousands” – a number that would suggest the Opel brand could one day account for as much as a third of Holden’s Australian sales.

Holden manager of corporate communications Sean Poppitt declined to confirm the report.

“We can’t comment on Opel’s situation, that’s a question for them,” he said.

“We also won’t comment on any future product plans for Holden except to say we have very exciting vehicles in the pipeline.” Unlike Ford, which has announced what is almost its full model line-up once it quits Australian car-making in 2016, Holden is remaining tight-lipped about the shape of its showrooms past its late 2017 production exit.

However, indications are that the car-maker plans to rely less on cheap Korean-sourced vehicles, with reports suggesting South Korea is likely to skew its production to emerging markets rather than mature ones such as Australia.

This view is strengthened by Opel’s unexpected withdrawal from Australia in August last year, which gives Holden’s parent within US-based General Motors, the Singapore-based GM Consolidated International Operations, time to realign the focus to more premium models.

While it is not yet confirmed that the premium Buick brand will be added to the Australian product line-up, any attempt by GM’s to introduce it to Australia will be the second time in recent history that the US car-maker has tried to set up a luxury niche under a largely unfamiliar badge.

In 2009, the Cadillac brand was pulled weeks ahead of its Australian launch after GM plunged into bankruptcy in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

About 40 CTS mid-size sedans brought into Australia for the launch were eventually sold in New Zealand.

Holden has seen its market share in Australia slide from more than 20 per cent a decade ago to just 11.6 percent last year.

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