The logo, or “Holden lion and stone” as it is known, has played a vital role in establishing Holden’s identity. The logo refers to a prehistoric fable, in which observations of lions rolling stones led to the invention of the wheel.


Killing Lions in the wild is an unpalatable thing altogether…but killing a lion in captivity and under  your watch is in my opinion …well…not really a clever thing to do.

The following comment will not change anything and I could, like most, accept it and go into “Tribute to Holden Mode” but that’s not me and I need to get this off my chest even if it just for posterity. You see, this has happened before and whilst Mary Barra wields the financial whip on any territory not giving a sound return on investment, one must ask how much of that poor return is as a consequence of GM’s own historic poor strategic thinking.

The end of the Holden brand came as a complete surprise to everyone and the arrogant manner this has been done has been breathtakingly blunt.  Corporate speak is attempting to ameliorate the hit with GM making it almost sound as if we should be sorry for them. Truth be told, had the GM brass had their way earlier, this would have happened some years ago. I am not sure how Aussie Holden folk see this fully as yet, however, early reactions are fairly volatile…  I know I am hugely disappointed… not only because the General has abandoned a brand unnecessarily and destroyed one of Australia’s proudest Symbols but, as collateral, forced an unplanned detour to the finest form of motorsport on the planet.

Having said my piece quite forcibly upon hearing the news a few days ago, many of my friends were taken aback by my forthright comments…but days later feel I was not sufficiently verbose….and yes this whole mess will have massive effects on Supercars racing in Aus and NZ but that, bad as it is, is not my primary concern. It is about a pattern of behaviour from GM that in my opinion continues to hide the lack of a well balanced international product range…and a business strategy to support it. This is something a company of this stature should have well sorted by now…because that in my opinion is the real reason this has happened.

International Motor Companies produce product to be competitive …and the market in Australia is just that …. with top selling brands there proving that the market is healthy… and inhabited by Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Nissan, Isuzu, Volkswagen, Kia and Subaru in the top twenty sales chart…One Holden comes in at # 15 and the next Holden at # 49.  So how did that happen to what was the most powerful auto maker on the planet?

If you listen to GM it ends up in that Corporate Speak

‘Corporate Speak’ much like politics, relies on the current top of the mind knowledge of receivers of this information being cluttered with too much daily junk to go into too much analysis…’tomorrows crises will diminish the importance of todays message…exponentially. But this one for me is not going to be explained away that easily.

In talking to a few Ford folk, even they are shocked. This is the one brand in the plethora of GM Monikers that should have been kept alive above all others. This was not like selling off Opel and  Vauxhall to a third party and in the process maintaining the branding, or closing down an in-house US Brand like Pontiac where a different area of the GM department store is still run by the same boss…No …this was highway robbery at its best. I had my rant a few days ago but could not have put it into better words than the Australian Prime Minister:

“Australian taxpayers put millions into this multinational company. They let the brand just wither away on their watch. Now they are leaving it behind,”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

In reading some of the blurb justifying the move as painful/difficult Mary Barra (a name ironically having a distinctly Aussie ring to it) said:

“I’ve often said that we will do the right thing, even when it’s hard, and this is one of those times.”

But you haven’t done the right thing…. You have done the expedient thing as a result, in my opinion, of not keeping your eyes on the prize over the years…

That first comment was followed up with my all-time favourite :

“we will take action in markets that cannot earn an adequate return for its shareholders.”

…that classic phrase neatly directs the blame for what has happened toward ‘those markets’ …. I have news for GM, the reasons those markets are unprofitable are most likely  because  there has historically been poor strategic response by your behemoth to the changes in the environments we are talking of.
Instead of keeping pace with trends in the Australian market or even better taking the lead and planning the transition for a competitive range of CBU product, as all the other OEM’s were forced to do , GM opted for something that was expedient, just destroying market acceptance by importing a very stunted range of Opels with that Iconic Holden Badge…from Peugeot. That for customers was tantamount to a middle finger to them and the Holden Brand. Sales plummeted because the lack of Corporate intent. GM your traditional customer base did not trust you any longer.

This could also have been a last minute hurrah by a handful of dedicated souls in the Corporate malaise trying to keep the blood flowing in an already partially dismembered limb. Either way this from where I see it, is a typically disinterested GM corporate approach to smaller markets requiring some out of the box solutionist support and thinking.

And they make it sound as if putting a different badge on car and making RHD product is star-wars stuff. As an Engineer I can tell you it is less difficult today than it was 40 years ago.

Lets just ask a few questions:

  • The LHD vs RHD issue…What for the life of me is that different in General Motors, compared to other mainstream manufacturers, be it VW, Hyundai, Toyota or Ford to mention just a handful. They are all global operations, all have similar infrastructure, all need to respond to massively shifting markets and all have the left vs right hand drive conundrum. Yes RHD is now an issue for GM, but they have that problem maybe because they have screwed the opportunities they had in companies which had access to volume.
  • What is the top of the mind driver that defines General Motors? For the other major brands there is a sense of purpose which sticks in the mind. Toyota: Reliability and honest value, Hyundai: Respect for their Head-down determination to succeed, VW: Teutonic resolve and mission to lead tech innovation in top line product (that despite the Diesel fiasco), Ford: A tough Quarterback committed to middle class endeavour. For GM…I’m kind of lost and why, I don’t know…but I have this picture of the primary endeavour being executives playing chess…with their brands as pawns.
  • If we want to see what happens when there is very little focus in building a brand, as opposed to just relying on a brand ‘to do its thing’… What did GM do with Opel? Pardon me if I think that a relatively small operation in Europe producing a brilliant range of cars, vans and SUVs that are basically no different to a VW, needs to have a founding statement and brand Image that rattles the cage and says… “I’m Different and here is why…”. Logic says that if you are unable to do that, the product disappears into the haze. Why was Opel not, for example grown within the GM organisation…given status and a purpose. As I see it, this was just an extension of GM’s reach, nothing special happened there in the last 30 years of GM ownership…and because of that…Disappeared when big brother realised it had been sitting on its hands.

That in my opinion is sadly is exactly what has happened to Holden…with vastly more critical consequences

BTW That Opel Logo represents a bolt of Lightening…would it not have been appropriate for GM to use that for a range of real performance cars to give the logo some substance to pull the rest of the range out of the doldrums…like an out of this world OPEL GT…or am I being too simple minded…Stand for something for heavens sake….’Blitz’ was there waiting to be used and OPC instead sounded like some sort of  medicine…

That’s my view anyway and it would take a lot of convincing for me to believe that GM had made a committed survival plan for Holden at any time, driven by a desire to do so at HQ level. I think the brass decided many moons ago to take their hand off the tiller and dump the operation…and faced a tenacious group of committed Holden souls who did everything they could within a hugely hostile  environment in the hope that something miraculous would happen…it did not…

So, it is what it is, and we are not going to change it…but…my disappointment has grown into a complete breakdown in respect for my working Alma Mata…and let me be specific as to why…it has happened before.

GM When you left South Africa in 1987 you illustrated just how incompetent you were at running a smaller international business.   When the local management team took over under American (ex GM) Bob Price…(he was a bit of a maverick & not, I understand, a member of the GM salute brigade) He and his team turned the operation around brilliantly and became a force to be reckoned with, amazingly  without new product …and did so in the midst of serious labour unrest in our country. I was by that time in an opposition company and from being very dismissive of this rag-tag takeover, we were soon to learn just how commitment to an enterprise by smart management making the right local decisions could make a difference. Price passed away at the tiller in 1989 but had assembled a team by that time that moved the operation to heights never seen before. Given the degree of difficulty, Delta is and always will be, the pinnacle of that operations performance in the period from 1926 to 2017 where GM product was distributed in this country.  GM took over again in 2004…after gingerly taking 49% of the business in 1997 and folded the operation in 2017…I will wager that had that ‘Rag Tag’ team been given the opportunity to manage that operation and the support to do so, to this day, Delta would be a force in our Motoring world.

Final word on this… “In my opinion GM…You failed…not the Colonials”

Lastly on this topic we need to commend Holden on their commitment to the product and this is biggest irony of all…if ever there was a brand within the greater GM envelope of often oddly directed brands, Holden has been  without question the most product driven of all.  In this transition phase I have no doubt that if fed with well-planned alternative CBU product, they would have embraced that with equivalent enthusiasm.

In a world where technology and product excellence have been the drivers of profit for the last 20 years or so… it would seem that during that time the potential Duntovs of the GM world have been very ‘absent’ (as opposed to being ‘omnipresent’) …clearly indicating that apart from pockets of performance oriented folk on Corvettes, Camaros, and weirdly turning Cadillac into a performance brand,  GM is not a product driven company. Holden are/were, they were folk who ‘lived the wheels’ just as that lion depicts and I would hazard a guess that that single cultural difference played a big part in what has happened.

But Holden leave a legacy at the heart of those that do take product seriously and which illustrates my point perfectly…in recent years Chevrolet’s NASCAR contender has been Holden based …that tells its own story .


RIP to what has been, in my opinion, the most consistently committed product team in the GM Organisation for the last 50 years

I am proud to have owned one and as you can see this one is  badged as a Chevy…and it is left hand
drive…just how difficult was that for a RHD country to do for the rest of the world….




A Supercar Comment


But seeing as we have touched on the Supercars issue…let’s dissect that for a mo. Anybody tuned in to reality would have to admit that the V8 Supercar series was running in an Indian Summer. At some time the inclusion of all makes in a top tier series would be inevitable and the Supercar management team were well aware of that and had started planning for it.

The issue is not whether it could/would happen but rather… How?…Well we have got our answer to that now have we not?  The problem is that the series is a massive business network producing engines, gearboxes, fabrications, fuels, tyres, wheels and a thousand other bits, pieces and infrastructure that make up this fabulous and unique form of racing. Logic would have it that there would be a transition rather than an abrupt end to it all…but, because GM’s armchair warriors (nee investors) figured it would be better to surprise everyone, the team down under will have to chase things up a little.
I have no doubt they will… simply because I have an idea that this is the most professional and committed group of motor racing administrators on the planet. I wish them well.

A final comment for the fans and supporters of the Holden Brand in motor sport…. These events tend to leave us feeling empty… so this is the way I see things…and a message to GM… and those hard done by shareholders.

When we as supporters of your product and brand have given of our time, energy and wholehearted commitment to your enterprise, we have done so in unison with our intrinsic passion for motorsport, this a part over which you have no collateral. It is this energy and fervour given freely that has unquestionably benefitted your brand and consequently your shareholders over time. That transaction has been based on trust.

The trust looks to have been broken.


Adelaide this weekend is going to be an interesting place to be…wish I could be there.