Holden New Zealand will begin laying off its head office staff in Auckland at the end of March, say industry sources.
First to go will be marketing staff. Others will go in staggered redundancies every few months until the carmaker closes its doors at the end of this year, say the insiders.
A request for official comment from Holden NZ about the winding down process was met with a blank: “Holden New Zealand declined to comment.”
The carmaker’s executives are deep in discussion with General Motors’ former global troubleshooter Jim Bunnell, who is managing the closure of the carmaker’s showrooms – around 200 in Australia and 30 in New Zealand.
Bunnell is in Australia with a new title – “executive director of Holden transition.” He will report to Holden boss Kristian Acquilina (above), the former head of Holden NZ.
The American was lured out of retirement in the US to “oversee the successful wind down of Holden vehicle sales”, a confidential bulletin from Holden HQ told its Australian dealers.
His arrival Down Under comes as Holden dealers prepare to negotiate the terms of compensation packages in the wake of parent GM’s shock decision to end Holden production. GM will also stop building right-hand-drive vehicles for other markets.
Bunnell helped close around 2300 showrooms in the US during the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis, when the giant carmaker filed for bankruptcy protection. Before the GFC, it had 5900 showrooms; after he’d finished it had 3600.
The Holden bulletin said Bunnell has “extensive experience at General Motors overseeing orderly and respectful transitions with other brands across the globe, including Chevrolet Europe, India and South Africa”.
He also “supported the changes to the North American dealer network post-bankruptcy in 2009. We welcome Jim to the Holden family”.
Bunnell (above) finished up with GM in 2018, after 39 years with the company. One of his last positions, says his LinkedIn profile, was executive director of “dealer rationalisation” – car industry speak for shutting down showrooms.
Holden NZ has already said it is offering its dealers the chance to become authorised service centres “to maintain an aftersales network for at least 10 years.”
Holden dealers on both sides of the Tasman claim the compensation being offered by GM to terminate their franchise agreements more than two-and-a-half years before they were due to be renewed is “insufficient”.
For its part the company has said: “In most cases Holden dealers will receive compensation a factor of four times the average Holden new car profit of all dealerships over the 2017-2019 fiscal years.”
Holden NZ will continue to sell its Commodore range, along with the Acadia SUV (pictured at top).