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Holden turns to Europe

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Holden will maintain an engineering centre in Australia after local car production ends in 2017 but says it will mainly only re-tune imported models for local conditions.

The company will maintain about 70 staff at its Victorian proving ground which General Motors International Operations president Stefan Jacoby said would re-tune imported cars for Australian buyers and may perform some work for GM’s international engineering team.

Holden announced the closure of the Lang Lang facility as part of its December decision to cease making the Commodore, Statesman/Caprice and Cruze range of locally-made cars, costing 2900 jobs in total.

Jacoby denied reversing the decision to retain Lang Lang, part of Holden product development since the 1950s, was a marketing exercise as its market share falls after it announced local manufacturing will cease.

“As we continue to plan for the company’s success now and in the future, it is important that Holden and its vehicles retain their Australian DNA,” he said.

“It will be involved in global engineering development as well, but mainly for fine-tuning for these vehicles which we will introduce for the Australian market.”

But Jacoby said Holden engineers would no longer have the capability to engineer a car from the ground up.

Jacoby made the announcement at Holden’s headquarters in Melbourne on Thursday, where he also launched three new niche European models to be sold in Australia and New Zealand from the first half of 2015 – the Astra hatch, Cascada convertible and Insignia performance sedan.

The models are built by GM’s European arm, Opel.

The Astra was on sale as an Opel in a separate Opel dealer network until that network was wound up in August 2013.

Jacoby refused to comment on further product announcements.

It is rumoured that American vehicles including the Cadillac luxury brand and the iconic Chevrolet Camaro – engineered in Australia on a platform it shares with the Commodore – might appear in Australia in the future.

Jacoby said Holden intends to keep all its staff and build all its local models until 2017.

“We expect around 2900 people (the current workforce) will maintain their jobs until 2017,” he said.

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