Tim O'Brien | Jun 6, 2008

Folks, some fast-breaking news from the bleaches. Holden has announced (3:00pm today) that it is to cease production of four cylinder engines with the closure of part of its Family II four cylinder engine plant at Port Melbourne, with an expected loss of 500 jobs.

Holden has been building four-cylinder engines here for export since the ‘80s... remember the Camtech 4? Good little unit, found in Pulsar, Daewoo, Camira and a bunch of others (and would run on long after the Camira had cleverly transformed itself into something altogether unpleasant).

Tonight, the TV news will be full of it: “Jobs shock, Holden plant to close” and “More bad news for local industry”... and so forth and so fifth (you know how it will go).

And sure, the high dollar makes exports hard, and ok, the local industry is battling for sales and profitability. But does this announcement mean Holden is off to hell in a handcart? Will we all have to learn to live, one day, without HSV?

Well, no, let’s just try breathing quietly, take one of these little pills (trust me, they’re ok) and we’ll all have a quiet lie down. Here are some things you may not know about Holden’s operations: in 2006 it pulled in $570 million in exports from its engine manufacturing operations, and similar last year. Its V6 engines can now be found in Alfa Romeo, Saab, Opel, Isuzu, and others.

And, while Holden sales have been falling in Australia, it’s export sales have been growing strongly, selling 108,000 vehicles off the Commodore platform last year.

Speaking recently to an industry newsletter, Holden boss-of-bosses Mark Reuss reaffirmed Holden’s commitment to the Australian market, and it’s global position in developing rear-drive platforms for GM.

“Being the global centre of engineering expertise for global rear-wheel drive is huge... we have a very organised and successful business model around having an architectural home room located here for global rear-wheel drive, which is our specialty. We have the ability to design, engineer, test and validate a full-blown car locally and GM can make that anywhere we want . . . for any market.”

In answering the question (AIM Newsletter): Will there still be locally made cars in 2015? In 2020? Mark Reuss answered,

“If we, as employees at Holden do our jobs correctly to produce globally competitive vehicles for sale in any global market, the answer is yes. Our corporation recognises that, with the investment we have here, and in our engineering capability, that goes along with being a global home room.”

There’s some corporate-speak in there but you get the gist...

Perhaps Holden can head the media breast-beating off at the pass with a press release headed: any premature reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

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