Screenshot of the Holden website if you use NoScript or have JavaScript disabled
Screenshot of the Holden website if you use NoScript or have JavaScript disabled. They need JS even to load their page in the first place!?

I’ve been quoting a lot of news stories on this blog over the last few days instead of creating posts of my own, but that’s only because there’s been so much I want to comment on. You’ll have to indulge me one last time because this one is a biggie.

Reading the Adelaide Now website (the online version of the local newspaper) this morning over coffee (well not literally, I imagine there would have been more than a few sparks flying out of this laptop if I did) I came across an article discussing the future of Holden, Australia’s local GM vehicle brand:

Holden halves production at its Elizabeth plant in Adelaide, SA
April 03, 2009 09:25am

The problem is, Holden (and GM) are both suffering not only because of the current financial mess, but because for years they’ve been ignoring the needs of their customers, to the detriment of their hard working employees who now work for companies that can’t keep it together. Instead of funding and building more fuel efficient cars when the public demanded them, Holden came out with the new Commodore which is heavier and burns more petrol than the previous generation from a few years ago. This is particularly ironic given the Commodore was originally designed to meet the demand for smaller cars during the oil shocks of the 1970s.

The Holden Commodore Omega
The huge Holden Commodore Omega, photo by User:OSX.

Unlike some people I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of car companies that we’re in this mess, government has been involved too. According to Wikipedia (which means it must be true, right?) and several of my university textbooks, after World War II Europe and Japan sought to rebuild their infrastructure with an emphasis on rail because they saw it as the most efficient way to move large numbers of people to multiple population centres. Australia and the United States shunned this by instead investing in airports and highway systems which we’re living with now. Car companies did pay off governments to get this privileged position, but they could have only done that with a complicit government. It’s a shame.

In the time I’ve been writing this the page refreshed and an update has been posted:

"UPDATE: Holden says its move to slash production and shifts at Elizabeth is an effort to keep the staff it wants to build a new small four-cylinder car next year."

This changes the game somewhat, but I’m worried it’s too little, too late. Other car companies figured out people needed and wanted cars like this years ago already. Developing a new car isn’t a simple or fast thing to do, in the meantime they still have to sell their gigantic Commodores. I doubt this will change much.