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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

End of an era: General Motors pulls the trigger on Holden

The announcement also sees the permanent departure of GM from all right-hand-drive markets that kicked-off in 2016.

With local production having come to an end three years ago, and after axing the ill-fated Opel Insignia-based ZB Commodore and Astra in December last year, General Motors (GM) has announced that iconic Australian marque Holden will cease to exist at the end of this year after 72 years in the automobile industry.

A move that has long been dreaded ever since the doors of the Elizabeth factory that made the Commodore closed after 39 years, twelve months after arch rival Ford ended local manufacturing of the Falcon at its Campbellfield Plant, the announcement also sees the permanent departure of GM from all right-hand-drive markets that kicked-off in 2016.

“GM has taken this difficult decision after an exhaustive analysis of the investment required for Holden to be competitive for the long term in Australia’s and New Zealand’s new car markets. Regrettably, this assessment determined such an investment could not meet GM’s investment thresholds, including delivering an appropriate return,” the automaker said in a statement.

Citing the “highly fragmented right-hand-drive domestic markets, economics to support growing the brand and delivering an appropriate return on investment”, as key reasons for the decision, GM also added that it had become more of a challenge to support a brand operating in two markets, namely Australia and New Zealand, that “represents less than one percent of the global industry”.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, especially considering the iconic status of the Holden brand and the contribution it has made not only to GM, but to the development of the economies of Australia and New Zealand,” the statement continued.

Announcing that it will support existing Holden owners in terms of service and warranty, as well as providing spare parts for the next ten years, GM added that is evaluating the future of not only its private Lang Lang testing facility, but also its performance Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) division formed in 1987 following the automaker’s infamous split with star racing driver Peter Brock’s Holden Dealer Team (HDT) earlier that year.

According to caradvice.com.au, the closure of Holden will result in overall job losses of between 600 and 800 positions, with motoring.com.au reporting that the eventual closure will cost GM more than US $1-billion. Aside from Lang Lang, which reports have alleged could be sold to Hyundai and Kia when Holden ends operations there in August, the Lion brand’s design studio in Melbourne will officially close by June this year, with GM also announcing that it will end Chevrolet sales in Thailand at the end of 2020.

In spite of the uncertainty surrounding HSV, caradvice reports that the sub-division founded by former racing driver and Formula 1 boss Tom Walkinshaw, could be rebranded to General Motors Special Vehicles (GMSV) that will offer select US vehicles in Australia with right-hand-drive conversion continuing to take place at is Clayton production facility outside Melbourne.

Aside from the new C8 Corvette that will come with right-hand-drive for the first time, other models could include the Camaro, the Chevrolet Silverado that has already been spotted Down Under and possibly even the Tahoe and Suburban. Uncertain though is the future of the Holden badged Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Acadia, as well as the Isuzu D-Max underpinned Colorado that has, after the introduction of the ZB, served as Holden’s best-selling model.

The end of Holden, a brand briefly offered in South Africa in the 1960s selling the Monaro, later rebadged as the Chevrolet SS, and more recently the VT, VX, VY, VZ and VE Commodore sedan and Ute as the Chevrolet Lumina, brings the number of marques axed under GM control to four following the off-loading of Oldsmobile in 2004 and Pontiac and Saturn in 2010.

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