Holden NZ calm about Commodore maker going French

Holden NZ calm about Commodore maker going French


POTENTIAL for cars that are the pride of Holden being subsumed into the conglomerate that holds the other lion brand, Peugeot, has been considered calmly in New Zealand.

Takeover of General Motors Europe’s Opel and Vauxhall brands by PSA – which controls Peugeot, Citroën and DS, all small-time performers in this market – appears increasingly possible, with talk that it might be resolved one way or the other by the end of this week.

Previously, they have suggested a desire to sort this before the Geneva motor show, which opens on March 7.

The sale appears driven by GM’s desire to regroup, perhaps as result of pressure on US car makers by the newly-installed Trump administration, and also recognises that the European concern has cost the parent $15 billion in losses since 2015.

Conceivably, it an effect on Holden would seem unavoidable.

Even though the Melbourne-based brand is transforming into a true international, taking GM vehicles from all around the world – utes from Thailand, cars and crossovers from South Korea and, from year-end sports utilities from the United States – the just-launching Astra and the next generation Commodore, here at year-end, plus the current generation Cascada convertible and old-model Astra coupe all come to us from Opel’s Russelsheim facility.

What might be the repercussions of Holden - which has a major national franchise operation that, in selling 1030 passenger vehicles in 2016 achieved nine percent share, was the second-biggest new car market performer behind Toyota - seeing its core passenger models in the hands of an operation that, in New Zealand, cumulatively sold just 583 cars here during that period and has just a handful of outlets?

Holden New Zealand believes it’s premature to answer that question.

When approached for comment, brand spokesman Ed Finn said the Auckland-domiciled operation was watching with interest, but that’s all.

“We’re aware of the discussions that are taking place, but it’s very much business as usual for GM Holden in New Zealand,” Ed Finn says.

“We have absolutely no concerns in regard to the Astra launch, which is happening at the moment, or the next-generation Commodore programme.”

It was a fluid situation, he agreed. “We need to see what decision is made between GM, Opel and PSA. Until there is certainty about that anything we said would simply be speculation.”

GM is reported to believe that selling Opel/Vauxhall to PSA will secure a better long-term future than if it stayed under US ownership - a different story to when it relinquished Saab, a death sentence for the Swedish brand.

Though PSA barely registers in New Zealand, it is a major performer in Europe, parts of Africa and Asia. Ownership of Opel/Vauxhall would push PSA ahead of Renault as Europe’s second-larget car maker, behind Volkswagen Group.

PSA is also looking stronger since the Peugeot family relinquished majority ownership. Now the family, the French Government and Chinese manufacturer Dongfeng are in charge.

With Germany, France and the United Kingdom involved, the deal is far from easy, not least given the post-Brexit sentiment that has risen in those countries. GM has spent the past week placating unions and Governments.

The automakers appear agreed that Opel/Vauxhall would be worth around $2 billion, half in cash and the remainder in liabilities.

One plus for PSA is that it gains access to GM’s electric vehicle technology, a significant bonus for the French given that Opel’s boss recently announced hope of his brand becoming an EV-only operation by 2030.

Opel is about to release a version of the Chevrolet Bolt, a small Barina-sized car that was turned down by Holden because of the poor reception given the previous generation Volt.

Also, PSA’s current electric-assisted vehicles, developed in conjunction with Mitsubishi, aren’t gaining much traction. Further, the tie-up with Mitsubishi might also now be joepardised now that brand is effectively part of the Nissan-Renault family.