Exodus: GM Isn't Just Departing the Australian Market

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
exodus gm isnt just departing the australian market

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]

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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.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.