It was the text message that sounded the death knell for Holden as a manufacturer in Australia.
''Are you seeing this question time attack on Holden?'' read the text message, sent by a company insider. ''Taunting [Holden] to leave. It's extraordinary.''
It was sent by one of the company's key strategists at 2.30pm on Tuesday, as Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss and Treasurer Joe Hockey were ripping the car maker to shreds during parliamentary question time.
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Holden exit politically damaging
While Holden's announcement that it will leave Australia by 2017 comes as no surprise, it will leave an indelible stain on the Abbott government's legacy. Mark Kenny analysis.PT9M49S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2z6a6 620 349 December 11, 2013 - 11:59PM
In a seemingly calculated performance - one designed to flush out GM's intentions and back the car maker into a corner - the Treasurer said it was time for Holden to ''come clean'' and be ''fair dinkum'' with the Australian people over its future in the country. ''Either you're here or you're not,'' Mr Hockey said.
Mr Truss chimed in by saying: ''They owe it to the workers of General Motors not to go into the Christmas period without making a clear commitment to manufacturing in this country.''
For Holden management, which had been in commercial-in-confidence discussions with the government for months, it was a clear signal that the federal cabinet had turned on the company, and wanted a swift end.
Listening in to the "extraordinary events": GMH managing director Mike Deveraux. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Holden staff members were not the only ones listening in to the ''extraordinary'' events unfold in Canberra. So was GMH managing director Mike Devereux.
For weeks Holden management had been fighting a battle over the timing of the announcement regarding the company's manufacturing operations in Australia.
The facts were simple to Mr Devereux's masters in Detroit. To them, Australia was suffering a severe case of ''Dutch disease'' - an economic malaise by which a mining boom had pushed up the local currency and wages for industrial workers.
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox
Without government assistance, head office in Detroit had decided that making cars in Australia no longer added up - to the tune of $3750 a car per year.
Mr Devereux knew that with no money forthcoming from the federal government, the end was nigh. His team had already brokered an enterprise bargaining agreement with the unions that enshrined a three-year wage freeze and won an extra 16 minutes of work time per employee a shift.
Mr Devereux told the Productivity Commission he did not have to eliminate the entire $3750 gap, just enough to keep his masters happy.
''GM, where possible and where feasible, the general philosophy of our company is to build where we sell,'' he said.
What Holden needed was a further commitment of $150 million a year from the government through to 2020 - roughly $2000 a car built. With that, Mr Devereux could get the numbers to work. In return, Holden would continue making the VF Commodore and Cruze in Australia until 2017, and then commit to build GM's next generation global car in Adelaide until 2020.
''We need a public-private partnership over the long term to be able to be relatively competitive and to have GM be able to do what it wants to do, which is to build where we sell,'' Mr Devereux told the Productivity Commission hearing after an hour of questions. ''Now, unless you guys have more questions, I need to move.''
Mr Devereux's impatience was understandable. It was 10am and big moves had been announced back in Detroit. GM chief executive Dan Akerson had just handed over the reins to Mary Barra, the first female chief executive of a major auto company.
Compared with other events taking place on the GM ''ecosystem'', as Mr Devereux likes to call it, a Productivity Commission hearing in Australia was small fry. But all that changed during question time.
While listening to the words of Mr Hockey and Mr Truss, the Holden boss was on the phone to Detroit, where it was after 10pm.
Mr Devereux informed GM headquarters of the events in Australia. The decision was swift. Detroit pulled the pin. Mr Devereux would take up his position as vice-president of sales, marketing and aftersales for GM's consolidated international operations, based in Shanghai.
Mr Truss on Wednesday claimed he had been told by Holden that the government's actions had little influence on GM's decision.
But Mr Hockey appeared to concede the government was not willing to give money to Holden. ''Ultimately, what it comes down to is prosperity only comes from hard work and enterprise; it doesn't come from the benevolence of taxpayers,'' he said.
After his phone call to Detroit, Mr Devereux booked a flight to Adelaide. ''I wanted to tell my workers first,'' he said on Wednesday.
The Holden team hit the phones to spread the news. South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine were next to be briefed.
After their protestations in the Parliament, it seems Mr Truss and Mr Hockey just may have been the last to actually know.