One of New Zealand's greatest motorsport drivers is shocked about the demise of Holden but says the brand has faced a rocky road for some years.

Holden driver Greg Murphy is among the thousands of Kiwis left gutted by the decision by General Motors to retire the brand by the end of the year.

"It's not making financial sense any more and they had to do something about it. Hard decisions had to be made," Murphy told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking on Tuesday morning.

Manufacturing and designing cars in Australia was costly, he said, and mistakes were also made around the messaging and marketing of the product.

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"I think a lot of people still thought Holden was going to disappear when the factory closed," said Murphy, referring to the closure of the Adelaide factory in 2017.

"The story might not have been told as good as it could at the time.

"There was also an issue keeping the product range up to date and providing cars that people still wanted."

Numbers had dwindled massively in Australia, down to 4 per cent market share, whereas NZ was at around 8.5 per cent at last count.

"Australia being the much bigger market, they needed to be doing a lot better than what they were.

"It's hard to pinpoint [what went wrong] because we weren't involved in all that decision-making but I think obviously the manufacturing side of things was going to come unstuck at some stage."

Many other Holden drivers - from the deputy leader of the National Party to everyday Kiwis - say they're also gutted their iconic cars have reached the end of the road.

GM international operations senior vice president Julian Blissett said it was a difficult decision to finally close the doors at Holden. Photo / Richard Robinson
GM international operations senior vice president Julian Blissett said it was a difficult decision to finally close the doors at Holden. Photo / Richard Robinson

General Motors announced yesterday that the popular car brand is to be retired from sales here and in Australia, and local design and engineering operations will wind down by 2021. Up to 800 jobs are at stake.

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GM international operations senior vice-president Julian Blissett said the difficult decision was made after detailed analysis of the investment required for Holden to be competitive beyond the current generation of products.

"Through its proud 160-year history, Holden has not only made cars, it has been a powerful driver of the industrialisation and advancement of Australia and New Zealand," said Blissett.

"Over recent years, as the industry underwent significant change globally and locally, we
implemented a number of alternative strategies to try to sustain and improve the business, together with the local team.

"After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritise the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally," said Blissett.

Holden has assured New Zealand drivers it will provide servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years and all warranting and servicing offers made at the time of existing sales will be honoured.

However, the news has come as a shock to many motoring enthusiasts, and potentially ends a chapter of Kiwi culture - the passionate rivalry between Ford and Holden fans.

"The whole Holden-Ford rivalry is alive and well, so to lose Holden in New Zealand is gut-wrenching," said Upper Harbour MP and Holden driver Paula Bennett.

"Holden is much loved. It's iconic, it's grunty, it's fun," she said.

Bennett expected a lot of Kiwis, and West Auckland residents in particular, to be upset at the announcement.

"I think they're such popular cars, New Zealanders have got them in their hearts as well as in their garage and I'm surprised at the decision."

Bennett hoped the move would mean reconditioned Holdens would be seen hooning along, a homage to the beloved brand.

Ford bested Holden to be the second best-selling vehicle, with 14,776 registrations and 10 per cent of the market last year. New vehicle registration data collected by the Motor Industry Association showed Holden was the fourth best-selling brand of 2019, with 12,026 registrations or 8 per cent of the market.

Screenwriter James Griffin, co-creator of Westie-inspired Outrageous Fortune and the show's origin story Westside, called the move a "tragedy".

He said the "time-honoured Westie divide" between Ford and Holden fans was "one of the great rivalries".

"It's just been a part of the culture for so many years. We all grew up watching Bathurst and the Ford flags and the Holden flags and whoever won got bragging rights for the year."

The rivalry even features in the new season of Westside as one of the thorns in a blooming romance between two characters.

Griffin said he was a Ford man, but only "by a whisker".

"I currently drive a Ford, but I learned to driven in a Holden Belmont. I've seen both sides of the equation."

Iconic Holdens such as this 1974 HQ Holden Kingswood are on the way out. Photo / Richard Robinson
Iconic Holdens such as this 1974 HQ Holden Kingswood are on the way out. Photo / Richard Robinson

However Clive Matthew Wilson, road safety campaigner and editor of dogandlemon.com said Holden's demise was inevitable.

"Since Holden stopped building cars in Australia, the brand has become largely irrelevant.

"Holden tried to get away with selling its customers a range of poorly built imported models with Holden badges glued on. This practice alienated many customers.

"Worse, Holden was notorious for providing crappy customer service; they got sued for this by the Australian Government."

"These days, car makers can't get away with simply trading on their historic name or image; they have to provide cars that are either desirable or reliable.

"Recent Holden models were neither. The top four brands in Australia are now all either Japanese or Korean. The Japanese and Koreans tend to build better cars and they tend to look after their customers better. So, Holden gradually faded away into nothing."

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And the boys in blue will likely need to rethink what they drive on the roads.

Superintendent Paul Jermy, national manager for infrastructure, told the Herald police recognised that the demise of Holden will affect many communities and workers.

"Police is in discussions with the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment on future options as the contract with Holden is part of the 'all of Government' vehicles contract."

GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina said that given the
significance of Holden through its history, it was critical the company worked with all stakeholders to deliver "a dignified and respectful wind-down".

"Holden will always have a special place in the development of our countries. As Australia and New Zealand grew, Holden was a part of the engine room fuelling that development," said Aquilina.

"[The] announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holdens, drive Holdens and feel connected to our company which has been with us for 160 years and is almost ubiquitous in our lives.

"Unfortunately, all the hard work and talent of the Holden family, the support of our parent company GM and the passion of our loyal supporters have not been enough to overcome our challenges."

The Holden brand will disappear at the end of the year after its owner General Motors announced it will no longer make cars right-hand drive vehicles. Photo / 123RF
The Holden brand will disappear at the end of the year after its owner General Motors announced it will no longer make cars right-hand drive vehicles. Photo / 123RF

Holden NZ general manager corporate affairs GM Ed Finn told the Herald: "We stand by our products and Holden owners will continue to be supported by a national after-sales network for at least 10 years.

"Holden will work with its dealer network on appropriate transition arrangements, including offering dealers the opportunity to continue as authorised service outlets to support Holden customers."

GM intends to focus its growth in New Zealand and Australia on specialty vehicles such as the Camaro and the upcoming Corvette, Blissett said.

GM has 828 employees in Australia and New Zealand and 1500 at plants in Thailand which it will sell to China's Great Wall Motors, the Associated Press reported.