GM kills the Holden brand, severs final ties with Australian market

GM is taking its Holden brand off life support and officially leaving the Australian market. According to a company press release posted today, Holden will cease all new car sales by 2021, marking the official end of the marque’s presence in Australia and New Zealand. Holden sales, design, engineering, and Holden Financial Services operations will all shut down as part of this decision, and the Maven car-sharing program will also end for the Australian market.

Holden represents a major part of the region’s automotive identity, with GM Holden’s first Australian auto manufacturing facility beginning operations in 1948. However, things started looking bleak when GM announced in 2013 that it would shutter its Australian manufacturing operations in 2017. At the time, the company cited the strength of the Australian dollar, high production costs, and limited demand in the highly competitive domestic market as reasons for the closure. Both Ford and Toyota halted Australian manufacturing around the same time, dealing a crippling blow to the automotive industrial supply chain in the region.

holden automotive logo and tagline

When GM closed its Australian production facility in October of 2017, the company said it intended to continue the Holden brand, selling rebadged imports of other GM products. Clearly the General couldn’t make that plan work, citing the “highly fragmented right-hand-drive markets, the economics to support growing the brand, and delivering an appropriate return on investment.” GM international operations senior vice president Julian Blissett, in a statement, indicated that the decision was made only after “implementing and considering” multiple alternatives intended to stave off this eventuality:

“Through its proud 160-year history, Holden has not only made cars, it has been a powerful driver of the industrialization and advancement of Australia and New Zealand.

Over recent years, as the industry underwent significant change globally and locally, we implemented a number of alternative strategies to try to sustain and improve the business, together with the local team.

“After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritize the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally,” said Blissett.

This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team.”

holden designers work on clay model prototype
holden designers working on model

general motors australian car brand art

Holden posted to Facebook a detailed Q&A page that addresses expected customer concerns. For starters, GM says it will honor all existing warranties, guarantees, and free scheduled service offers; maintain call center support; and provide parts and service for at least 10 years via Australia- and New Zealand-based “national aftersales networks.” GM will also address all recalls and safety issues that come up. Dealers will be offered the option to transition to authorized Holden service locations, as well.

The Q&A also indicates that GM isn’t yet saying what it will do about the Lang Lang Proving Ground, and the new Corvette’s future in Australia and New Zealand is obviously now in question. GM is, thankfully, taking steps to preserve and secure the future of historic significance “through local partners and institutions.” As for Holden Special Vehicles, the sub-brand responsible for some of Holden’s greatest performance cars, Holden says it plans to “focus our growth strategies in these markets on the specialty vehicles business and plan to immediately begin work with our partner on that focus.”

The end of the Holden line is a sad one for many Australians and fans, as well as those here in the U.S. who have had the pleasure of the modern Chevy SS (essentially a rebadged Holden Commodore). Cars like the Maloo HSV were unique, to say the least, and they’ll be sorely missed.

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