Holden axing presents 'real challenge' for police - Chris Cahill

New Zealand's Police Association is watching with interest to see what will happen to the police vehicle fleet in the aftermath of General Motors' decision to axe the beloved Holden car brand.

While the brand has faced financial challenges and had to close an Adelaide factory in 2017, the announcement on Monday that Holden operations and sales would wind down in Australia and New Zealand from 2021 has still sent shockwaves through the motoring community. 

In New Zealand, there are Holden dealers across the the North and South Islands which could be affected. Hundreds of people across Australia and New Zealand will likely lose their jobs.

One group that will be impacted by the decision is the New Zealand Police, who use Holden vehicles across their patrol fleet. 

"New Zealand Police recognise the exit of Holden will have an impact on many communities and workers," Superintendent Paul Jermy, the national manager for infrastructure told Newshub.

"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."

Police Association President Chris Cahill told Newshub the move was going to "create a big change" for officers.

"For the last 30+ years, we've had either Fords or Holdens, and having to go outside that market will create some challenges and definitely require some thinking to get the right sort of vehicles going forward," he told Newshub.

"Traditionally, when we have experimented with vehicles that haven't been the robust Holdens, or Fords earlier than that, we have just found they haven't stood up to the rigours of day-to-day, 24/7 driving, having to take prisoners in the back of them, simply haven't gone the distance. That is the real challenge."

Cahill said he believed police would look at what Australian authorities did. Already, manufacturer BMW was making "some strong inroads into the police market" across the ditch, he said.

"While the brand may seem luxury they are actually able to provide some specific police vehicles and that may be the solution, to find manufacturers that can have a more police-specific type of product."

He said police vehicles had to go through extensive testing to ensure they were up to standard. That included determining whether the vehicles could stand up to rural and urban conditions, whether the rear seats were the right height for prisoners and if the boot had the right capacity. The Police Association also want to make sure there is a sufficient partition between the vehicle's driver and any prisoner or offender in the back. 

"It will be interesting to see what propositions the other manufacturers are able to come up with," Cahill said.

Reaction to Holden's news

Former head of corporate affairs at General Motors-Holden NZ Neil Waka told The AM Show that after the closure of the Adelaide factory, brand loyalty began to wane. 

"Once they stopped manufacturing, people realised that the loyalty wasn't going to be there anymore and people weren't supporting the brands as they used to," he said.

"Because the cars weren't being made in Australia, they realised they weren't Aussie cars anymore and people weren't buying those vehicles."

He said following the factory's closure, there was a big impact on workers and their families.

"It is not just the redundancies, which is incredibly sad, it is all the support networks, it is the communities that are going to lose out."

General Motors said on Monday: "After a 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.

"This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team."

The announcement devastated many fans, including Holden racing legend Greg Murphy. He told Newshub: "For it to have got to this point where they are actually closing the doors, I didn't think that was a day I'd see".

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett tweeted that many west Aucklanders - known for their love of cars - are "hurting".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also expressed anger with the news.

"Australian taxpayers put millions into this multinational company," he said.

"They let the brand just wither away on their watch. Now they are leaving it behind. I think that's very disappointing, that, over many years, more than $2 billion was directly provided to General Motors for the Holden operations.

"I think the fact they took money from Australian taxpayers for all those years just to let the Holden brand wither on their watch, I think is disappointing."

One of Holden's main competitors, Ford, tweeted on Monday that it was "saddened" by the news. 

"Holden is an iconic brand that holds a special place in the heart of many Australians and has done so much to shape the Australian automotive industry and the country.

"Its vehicles have been worthy competitors both on-road and on the racetrack. To our friends at Holden, thank you for keeping us on our toes and inspiring us to keep aiming higher. We will miss you."