Exodus: GM Isn't Just Departing the Australian Market

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The news that General Motors will exile Holden to the Island of Lost Brands overshadows changes set to occur elsewhere in the world, all part of the automaker’s plan to cut costs via a streamlined global footprint.

China, despite its current problems, is still seen as a market with great growth potential, but the same can’t be said for another Asian nation.

Riding side-saddle to Sunday’s Australian announcement was news that the Chevrolet brand will bite the dust in Thailand. GM Thailand’s assembly plant in Rayong assembles the Colorado pickup (yes, there was also a Holden export version) and the overseas-only Trailblazer (not to be confused with the pint-sized crossover launched recently in North America), but that plant will soon have new ownership.

The automaker says the plant will be sold to China’s Great Wall Motors and Chevrolet sales will cease by the end of 2020. In doing this, GM forfeits any and all future pickup volume in a highly populous market.

Late last year, GM announced that its Thai plant would supply customers in Uzbekistan with the Trailblazer, citing that country’s “varied” road conditions and the SUV’s durability. Guess that plan’s off, then.

The net cost of pulling out of Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand is said to be $300 million. Already, the past few years has seen GM pull out of Vietnam, Indonesia, and India, to say nothing of Europe and Russia. The automaker offloaded its Opel and Vauxhall brands to the French back in 2017. Now, GM plans to tighten its focus on North America, Latin America, China, and South Korea.

“I’ve often said that we will do the right thing, even when it’s hard, and this is one of those times,” said GM CEO Mary Barra in a statement. “We are restructuring our international operations, focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in the areas of EVs and AVs.”

Barra added that GM “will support our people, our customers and our partners, to ensure an orderly and respectful transition in the impacted markets.”

The automaker blamed “low plant utilization and forecast volumes” for the decision to leave the country and sell the Rayong facility. “Without domestic manufacturing, Chevrolet is unable [to] compete in Thailand’s new-vehicle market,” the company said.

While GM’s global footprint continues to shrink, it’s not completely vacating some markets. The automaker said it would turn its focus to niche, low-volume specialty vehicles in markets like Japan, Europe, and Russia. Australia could see the same.

[Image: GM Thailand]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Cprescott Cprescott on Feb 24, 2020

    there is absolutely nothing to get excited about when it came to Bob Yutz's involvement in products. He was proud to be the father of the hideous and awful first generation Buick LaTosse. His involvement in GM was to remove plastic cladding from Pontiacs and to shove old fashioned expensive junk from the land of Kangaroos onto America. It would be one thing if he was peddling classing Pontiac GTO's - but that that bland and awful Kangaroo thing should never have been shipped here - ever. It was just a sorry excuse to add volume to Holden to keep the plant open longer. That awful GTO in name only likely never made a profit after all costs were considered.

  • Cprescott Cprescott on Feb 24, 2020

    It should be noted that per the terms of the GM bankruptcy and bailout that the entire European operations were to have been closed down; unfortunately for the American taxpayers who were screwed out of $30 billion, GM failed to sell off those worthless assets as they were required to do and upwards of $2 billion of taxpayer dollars were diverted to expand GM's chinese operations. Perhaps if GM had not had to develop new nameplates for each two bit country they sold cars in, they would have just been able to sell chevrolets around the world and produce them like the Japanese do with the Camjunk and Accordians. There is no need to build local if you want to stay profitable. Pick a centralized country and build to ship elsewhere - one plant for 10, two bit countries.

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.