The now-defunct GM Holden and Vietnamese automotive start-up VinFast have reached an agreement for the latter to buy the Lang Lang Proving Ground at which Holden had developed cars for over 60 years, ensuring automotive R&D will continue in Australia following the company’s demise.

With VinFast already having recruited many former Holden engineers, which were regarded as some of the best in the world, to its Automotive Technology Institute 2 in Port Melbourne, the move is a logical one as the fledgling company looks to better establish itself beyond the confines of its home market.

Following concerns that the site would be turned into a sand mine by one of the leading bidders which an environmental group, Save The Holden Bushlands, led by former motoring journalist Tim O’Brien lobbied against due to it potentially putting many endangered native Australian species at risk, VinFast noted it was committed to the ongoing protection of the local bushland and environment and it intends to continue to allow access for community Landcare activities.

A fleet of VF Holden Commodores out on Lang Lang’s high-speed bowl.

Additionally, the company made the point that it also intends to honour Holden’s heritage at the iconic site by allowing access to open days for Holden car clubs and former employees.

As a part of the agreement, Holden Interim Chairman and Managing Director Kristian Aquilina added that the newly-established GM Speciality Vehicles – the General Motors-backed successor to Holden Special Vehicles that will handle the importation and right-hand drive conversions of various GM vehicles – will also continue to have access to the site for testing and re-engineering vehicles to suit the Australian market.

Speaking of the sale and the continuation of R&D at the site and indeed in Australia, Mr Aquilina noted that, “The Lang Lang Proving Ground will continue to shape the global automotive industry.

“Over the past five years, GM has invested in the laboratories and tracks at the site, which will now be well utilised by its new owners.

“This deal hits a sweet spot of a fair sale value, a ready-made facility for VinFast’s needs, ongoing employment for departing Holden employees and the preservation of amenity for the community.

“In some ways, it’s the end of an era. We pay tribute to rich automotive history created at the Proving Ground, and the brilliant Holden people who worked there. At the same time, its genuinely pleasing to know there’s a bright future there as well.”

This is far from the first link VinFast has had to General Motors as while the current models it sells in Vietnam are based off BMW architecture, the recently-unveiled President paired a GM V8 with a BMW X5 chassis, showing the company has a penchant for muscle as, indeed, Holden did.

Although the company has not yet announced any plans to begin selling cars Down Under, this does at least bring it one step closer to potentially doing so, and its heavy investing within Australia may hint at it potentially planning to do so.

Patrick Jackson
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