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Why the Holden Commodore's days were numbered

With the Commodore due to come to an end by this time next year, the focus is now on the future of Holden.
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The axing of the Holden Commodore is news to everyone except those inside the car industry: the numbers don't lie.

When sales are going south and there’s no hope in sight, the end is only a matter of time.

The imported Commodore may have had a stay of execution if the company that builds it was still owned by Holden's US parent company General Motors.

But General Motors sold Opel to French giant Peugeot-Citroen in 2017 – about the same time as Holden stopped making cars in Australia – and that dented Holden’s ability to negotiate a better “factory gate” price, to use industry jargon.

To be fair to Holden and the imported Commodore, there was nothing wrong with the vehicle itself.

It had more technology than any Commodore before it, and was far more fuel-efficient.

But diehard fans mourned the loss of the V8, and fleets and family-car buyers had already moved to SUVs.

There was also a touch of arrogance from Holden at the introduction of the imported Commodore in 2017 that probably didn't help.

It dismissed the Toyota Camry as a rival, the feeling among Holden executives being that the Commodore was much better than that.

But the scorecard tells the story today: Toyota sells three times as many Camry sedans as Holden does Commodores. It wasn’t that long ago such a statistic would be unheard of.

So, what comes next? With the Commodore (and Astra) gone, the focus will turn to the future of Holden itself.

For its part, Holden says it is here to stay and is committed to the future.

The problem is it has just posted its lowest monthly sales since the company was established in 1948. It was the sixth record low month this year.

And Holden was almost overtaken by a lesser brand – Isuzu – which has just two models in its showrooms and half the number of dealers.

The battle for Holden now has shifted from manufacturing cars to one of survival.

Holden by the numbers

  • 94,642 - Holden Commodore peak sales, in 1998
  • 6000 - Approximately how many Commodores will be sold in 2019
  • 1978 - the year the first Holden Commodore rolled off the production line
  • 2.4 million - Approximately how many Commodores were made locally, from 1978 to 2017
  • 2020 - The end of the line for the Commodore nameplate in Australia
  • 42 - The number of years the Commodore will have been sold in Australia when it reaches the end of its run (longer than the Holden Kingswood)