Holden will become a centre of development for General Motors' next-generation autonomous and electric vehicles sold throughout the world.
Speaking to press at its head office in Port Melbourne this morning, the manufacturer said it will hire a further 150 engineers and increase its budget with funds from parent company General Motors to the tune of $120 million - $28 million more than it previously spent on local engineering.
The increased budget will see local operations expand from 350 to 500 design and engineering employees working on the next generation of GM products worldwide. The American corporation says the majority of that work will focus on autonomous and electric technology.
“GM is determined to be the first company to bring safe, autonomous vehicles to market — not within years, but in quarters. Make no mistake, we’re moving to a driverless future — a future of safer roads and zero crashes,” says GM executive vice president and president of global product, Mark Reuss.
“At the same time, GM is well on its way to bringing at least 20 new all-electric models to market by 2023,” added the former Holden boss.
But most of those next-gen electric and autonomous vehicles are not likely to come to Australia, and Holden is yet to lock in plans for the future under the direction of new boss David Buttner. Reuss added GM was concerned about how Holden is faring in its change from manufacturing to importing vehicles, but has put its money where its mouth is with the cash injection.
Reuss told reporters General Motors "were worried" about Holden's future, but that he is "totally confident" it can recover to a position of strength.
“[There was] no government funding as part of this at all," he says.
"And I would say, don’t misunderstand my comment about Australia being a tough market - I don’t mean the people.
"This is a million-unit market and its really tough to win here.”
Reuss expressed GM's unquestionable support for the Australian brand, adding clarity that new models in the line-up were specially-developed solely in right-hand drive for Holden.
“The Equinox wasn’t designed for anything else but Holden, the Acadia wasn’t made for anything right-hand drive except Holden, and we're making those commitments now," he says.
Buttner added the path to recovery for Holden will not be fast and will be built on brand trust.
“Everything we do - every step - is one more step to ensuring the brand re-emerges in this business," Buttner says.
“We had the brand cease manufacturing and I think Holden manufacturing was most deeply embedded in the Aussie psyche - the six and eight was the bastion of the brand.
“This announcement is really exciting because we are going to employ more Australians and that buoys dealers and helps grow volume and share, step by step, over the coming years.”