From humble beginnings as a saddle manufacturer, to becoming a subsidiary of global automotive giant General Motors and one of the top-selling brands in Australian automotive history, today we take a moment's silence for the death of Australia’s longest-running carmaker.
The Holden brand has been a household name in Australia for as long as any living inhabitant can recall, but today the carmaker confirmed it will be ceasing all operations by the end of 2020.
After beginning as a South Australian saddlery in 1856, Holden transitioned into the automotive field in 1908 and was subsequently picked up by US auto maker, General Motors, in 1931.
Over its lifetime, Holden has served as a metaphor for Australia in many ways – mirroring the highs and lows of the nation’s short history, becoming a little guy that punched well above its weight and garnering international recognition.
The marque enjoyed sales success in Australia, launching its most iconic and best-selling model, the Commodore in 1978. The re-engineered version of German marque Opel’s Rekord featured a stronger body and additional sealing to better cope with Australian conditions, long a hallmark of the Holden brand.
Holden and its Commodore enjoyed healthy growth and development throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s, reaching a peak in the 2000s when the VE Commodore was built on a completely fresh, Australian-designed platform for the first time in its long and storied history.
The Commodore and Holden’s reach even expanded back to General Motors’ homeland, becoming the base for its Chevrolet Caprice and subsequently the Pontiac G8.
However in its latter years, Holden struggled to compete with international rivals. In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, market trends shifted toward a newfound focus on economy and sensibility. The emergence of SUVs and hatchbacks meant Holden and its large-sized-sedan Commodore filled a shrinking niche in the Australian market.
Smaller Holdens such as the Astra and Barina were also not immune to changing consumer desires – while its play for the burgeoning SUV market also failed to spark consumer interest.
In 2013, after declining sales, Holden announced it would cease all Australian manufacturing by 2017. In 2018, even the cherished Commodore would only continue only in namesake as a rebadged Opel Insignia.
A sign of the times, the Insignia-based Commodore featured trims spanning from four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines with front-wheel-layouts, to ‘performance’ variants that saw a naturally-aspirated V6 putting 235kW to the tarmac through a front-biased AWD system. Gone were the days of a thirsty, torquey, Greenpeace-angering 6.2L V8 option.
In early 2020, the Australian marque posted its lowest sales figures since 1954 and the end seemed nigh.
So, please join us at CarAdvice for a moment's silence for one of the most iconic brands ever to come out of Australia. More than just a carmaker, the Lion badge typified Australia’s rich and varied history.
Holden, 1856-2020. Gone, but never to be forgotten.
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