HOLDEN considered building a homegrown SUV, reviving the iconic Torana nameplate, and continuing US police car exports before announcing the shutdown of its assembly line three years ago.
The company says it “left no stone unturned” in its attempt to save the Elizabeth car factory and considered a “wide range of options”.
While an SUV based on a stretched version of the current Commodore’sunderpinnings was considered alongside a smaller model to be called the Torana — giving Holden three models off one “platform” — the secret plans initially floated in the mid-2000s didn’t get off the ground because GM wanted to source similar cars from other factories.
Holden also conducted a feasibility study into continuing production of the Caprice — and maintain exports as a US police car — alongside newer models, News Corp Australia can reveal.
However, in the lead-up to the shutdown announcement in December 2013, Holden put forward a detailed plan to Federal and State Governments to build four-cylinder and V6 Commodores alongside the next generation Cruze small car from 2018.
That proposal was designed to keep the Holden factory running to at least halfway through the next decade, the year 2025, sources have told News Corp Australia.
It means that even if the factory had been saved it would have still spelled the death of the Commodore V8.
The planned Commodore of the future was a derivative of the sedan Holden will import from Germany next year.
Plans outlined to News Corp Australia show the Elizabeth factory required an upgrade by 2018 to assemble the two new models — codenamed E2 for the Commodore and D2 for the Cruze.
The changes to assemble the D2 small car were relatively minor, however a significant overhaul was required to build the E2 locally.
Holden boss Mark Bernhard would not go into detail about the secret plans but said: “We left no stone unturned in trying to keep manufacturing here, it was a very complex decision”.
Former industry minister, Senator Kim Carr, told News Corp Australia: “I took to Cabinet a proposal to do two new Holden models … and had a plan for $300 million a year in support for the whole industry, including manufacturers and parts suppliers.”
This would have been enough for Holden and Toyota to keep their local factories running, says Senator Carr, because both needed each other to be supported by the same supplier base.
“There is no doubt in my mind both Holden and Toyota would have stayed,” said Senator Carr. “We could have kept the whole industry alive and 50,000 people in jobs for $300 million a year (in government support).”
The planned injection of taxpayer funds was in addition to the “massive investments” made by the car makers themselves, which had agreed to contribute three dollars for every dollar of government funding.
When asked about the possibility of a locally made Holden SUV, Senator Carr said: “I was always keen for Holden to build an SUV but that was never a plan put to me. Car companies evaluate options all the time when planning for the future.”
Holden will close its Elizabeth assembly line this Friday, marking the end of car manufacturing in Australia.
Ford, Australia’s oldest car maker, closed its Broadmeadows and Geelong factories a year ago after 91 years of manufacturing.
Toyota closed the Camry factory in Altona earlier this month. It was the first full scale car manufacturing facility Toyota had closed anywhere in the world.