The battered reputation of US car giant General Motors is set to take another hammering as a federal Senate standing committee sits next week to prepare for its upcoming inquiry.
Chaired by West Australian Senator Louise Pratt, the bipartisan committee will assess Holden's rapid and unexpected departure from the Australian market and the ramifications this had had on dealers, vehicle owners, and employees.
Originally set to report by May 2020, the committee rescheduled due to the coronavirus restrictions and is now closing submissions on June 25. It is now due to report to federal Parliament in November.
The nation's iconic car brand, once the biggest seller in the country with tens of thousands of owners and a massive manufacturing presence across three states, has been summarily axed from the local market. The brand's 185 dealers, including two in Canberra, were advised on February 17 this year that the closure would be effective by the end of 2020.
After-sales and service agreements are being offered to dealers. However, dealers believe they are being short-changed on the deal by GM and are demanding appropriate financial compensation.
The size of that compensation is now turning into a legal stoush with GM unwilling to budge on its offer.
Meanwhile, the controversy has already resounded through the Parliament with Queensland Senator James McGrath accusing GM of using the coronavirus to prolong negotiations and as an "alibi for the worst corporate behaviour".
Sen McGrath described GM as having the "ethics of a purse snatcher".
He said the company was "trying to sneak under the cover of COVID-19 to disappear into the night and leave Australian businesses stranded after an 89-year one-night stand".
General Motors has been operating in Australia since 1931. Local manufacturing of the first Holden began in Adelaide in 1948.
In documentation provided to the Senate inquiry, General Motors said it was concerned that "our offer has been the subject of much malign and misinformed criticism in the public domain" and describes its offer to the disaffected national dealer network as "entirely fair and reasonable".
"The offers were formulated prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.
"Holden has at all times sought to act in good faith and has had courteous and respectful discussions with dealers throughout this process".
James Voortman, the head of the Australian Automotive Dealers Association, said that he expected the Australian dealers would "hold the line" and hoped that GM, a $200 billion dollar international company, would put up a better offer.
"I would have expected that there would be a more suitable offer given the strong legacy of the brand," Mr Voortman said.
"I would have thought that a company like GM can afford to leave with a little dignity."