Why Holden Should Hang its Head in Shame

Too much hubris, excessive sucking on the taxpayer teat; insufficient strategy, viability, sales or job security. Here's the back story


Holden should hang its head in shame. Stevie Wonder could see that this mob is preparing an Australian exit strategy, and yet it keeps begging for more public funding. Even this week, Holden has the gall, the arrogance, the extreme corporate hubris to do so within just a few days of sacking another 100 Australian workers.

Incredibly enough, Holden just stamped its foot like the petulant child it is, and demanded (note that word) demanded the dough from the new PM. It’s like a bad hold-up in a Tarantino movie. Deadline: eight weeks. What a joke.

Except it's really not funny. 

News Limited's Joshua Dowling wrote an excellent piece on it today.  

Holden has spent billions attempting to convince ordinary Aussies like us that it’s as authentically home grown as the late Steve Irwin, despite being in fact as Australian as McDonald’s. It’s a kind of implicit fraud. A better word would be ‘bullshit’.

For more background on this read about the local carmakers facing oblivion

Holden’s addiction is just as compelling, and every bit as undignified, as the addiction of a crack whore standing on Livernois Avenue, Detroit, at midnight on Friday trying to turn a trick. Just eight miles from GM’s palatial headquarters in the Renaissance Center. The only salient difference being the crack whore is engaged in an equitable exchange – sex for methamphetamine – while Holden expects, in the immortal words of Dire Straits, money for nothing.

Tony Abbott needs to realize that tipping one more red cent Holden’s way is a betrayal of the national interest. It’s immoral and unethical. Every cent spent on Holden is a cent that is not spent on aged pensioners, on healthcare, on vital infrastructure, on border protection, on energy security or on food security.

There is no return on investment when public money gets tipped into Holden. Billions have fallen into that black hole already. And no good has come of it. None. There is a trail of evidence miles (and decades) long supporting this conclusion. Holden keeps losing money. Holden does not pay tax. Holden builds second-rate cars which (understandably) nobody wants. For the taxpayer, for the car buyer, there is no return on investment.

The decision to selectively protect carmakers is a slap in the face for all other Aussie businesses doing it tough with no support, in particular our farmers and other primary producers, upon whom the economy fundamentally pivots. Unlike carmaking.

The Holden VF Commodore is the Joan Rivers of Australian automobiles – it’s about 1000 years old once you scratch the hastily re-plastered surface. And the locally made Cruze is a poorly adapted Daewoo with the singular distinction of being the car most likely to burst spontaneously into flame thanks to its intrinsic design defects, in its less than illustrious time on our shores (if recalls.gov.au is anything to judge this by).

On the import side of the business, Holden has become an importer of re-badged Daewoos – with build quality and innovation to match. At least Hyundai and Kia aren’t ashamed of their South Korean heritage – and to ally buyers’ lingering concerns, at least the authentically South Korean pair offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Holden doesn’t, but most of their imports come from the same place.

Not even the jobs are safe in exchange for the big bucks. Holden’s manufacturing workforce has shrunk from around 7000 to around 1400 in the past 10 years – despite the company swallowing your hard-earned taxpayer funds faster than you could bail them out of the sinking ship. Commodore and Cruze sales are on a hiding to nowhere, despite model revisions and fire-sale pricing that simply smacks of desperation. In 2012, Holden’s sales were at their lowest ebb for almost 20 years.

Holden also either lied or just elected to remain tight-lipped about the latest round of sackings. Bad timing, really, with the election being virtually coincident, and Mr Abbott on the record pledging to put $500 million of our money to better use, instead of wasting it on Holden.

Fifty administrative staff in Port Melbourne were quietly boned last week – in addition to the 50 sacked engineering workers that did blip briefly on the public radar.

The fact is, Holden pockets the taxpayer cash and enters into no real guarantees. Clearly there are none – because the jobs keep evaporating, and the sales keep tanking. And there’s no public scrutiny. Exact details of the agreement are kept shrouded in secrecy – apparently they’re commercially in confidence. Holden says it wouldn’t want the competition to know, because that might hurt the company’s business. And Christ knows they can do that all on their own – no outside assistance needed there. They’re kicking the world’s biggest ‘own goal’ … in the stadium that you helped build, all on their own.

Ford Australia did exactly the same thing. It had sufficient hubris to throw a multi-million-dollar VIP party to outline its rosy future … just weeks after announcing it was out of here, on the manufacturing front, after billions of your money was wasted propping it up for all those years.

The evidence is in, and it’s incontrovertible. Tony Abbott needs to remain firm on his pre-election commitment to cut car company funding. Holden needs to shut up shop and go. Better for all concerned. It’s that simple. The taxpayer can no longer afford to be Holden’s golden goose. More money will not solve this problem. Einstein put it best when he said doing the same thing over and over again and again and expecting a different result is insane. And this is clinically insane.

Holden has no plan to recover. There is no new golden age of Australian car making just around the corner. It’s not a case of the darkest hour preceding dawn. It’s a case of the fat lady going on in five, whether you like it or not. Holden has an agenda. It just wants the cash. Because when you’re running GM’s antipodean outpost, that’s what the big boys in Detroit expect you to deliver.

The thought of tipping more funds Holden’s way is unconscionable.

What do you think? Let me know. Leave a comment below.