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Six Feet Down Under - Ending 165 Years Of Holden.

There are days where the heart falls heavy with grief, at the loss of someone we love, or an idea that we adore. As a sign of the times, the automobile is undergoing a rapid shift into a new future, and as it charges forward, some things are destined to be left behind.

One such relic of the old days was Holden, an iconic remembrance for all who come from Down Under. For the past 164 years, they have led the way for the car industry in Australia and New Zealand. In the process, they have not only helped to move millions of people, but they have also become a symbol of pride.

Credits to: GIPHY

Following the turn of the second millennia, Holden has undergone heavy financial pressure, and their sales have been flagging for years. So much so, that in 2017 the company has stopped manufacturing their own goods, simply to rebadge foreign counterparts from the General Motors family.

After years of seeing writings on its wall, Holden will soon become no more. After 165 years of business, Holden will become defunct by January 1st, 2021. While owners of current Holden cars will continue to receive support for at least 10 years, this is no doubt a sad moment in history.

Credits to: Twitter - Ford (Paying tribute to rival, Holden)

1/1 - All of us here at Ford Australia are saddened to hear the news that Holden will cease operations. Holden is an iconic brand that holds a special place in the heart of many Australians, and has done so much to shape the Australian automotive industry and the country...

— Ford Australia (@FordAustralia) February 17, 2020

2/2 - Its vehicles have been worthy competitors both on road and on the racetrack. To our friends at Holden, thank you for keeping us on our toes and inspiring us to keep aiming higher. We will miss you.

— Ford Australia (@FordAustralia) February 17, 2020

A Rising Star In The Outback.

Credits to: State Library of South Australia (Holden & Frost Saddlery)

Some car companies have colourful beginnings, such as Peugeot's start to making all sorts of things, from pepper grinders, corsets, bicycles, and artillery munitions, before moving into making cars. For Holden however, they have been destined to rule personal transport since its foundation.

Formed in 1856, Holden made quality saddles for the discerning horseback rider, back in a time when automobiles were inventions conjured up by maddened engineers. Holden themselves started moving into cars in 1908, and had even been contracted to build Australian-made Ford Model Ts.

Credits to: ABC News (Holden closure: Australia's history of car manufacturing comes to an end).

Their start in the automotive industry began with upholstery, and then onto painting and bodywork. From there, Holden's Motor Body Builders made body panels and chassis for car companies in Australia, and also to be exported around the world.

By the early 1920s, they were producing 12,000 units per year, assembling car bodies for Ford, Austin, Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Oldsmobile, and Studebaker, among others. The Great Depression of the 1930s took a toll on their business, before being merged with General Motors, to become General Motors-Holden's Ltd. in 1931.

Credits to: Autocar (History Of Holden). Pictured here are the first Holdens.

After the Second World War, Holden continued to pursue their dream of making the first Australian-borne car. This finally happened in 1948, after some compromise with GM, when they launched the Holden 48-215 sedan, which created long waiting lists stretching at least a year.

As the economy picked up steam in the 1950s, Holden continued to dominate the Aussie car market. Along with the sedan, Holden also made the 50-2016 utility coupe. Endearingly nicknamed the "ute", it was the workhorse of Australia, from rural farms to urban centres, it became an icon.

Credits to: Wikipedia (Holden FJ Series Panel Vans)

Following minor facelifts, future Holdens in the 50s and 60s saw the introduction of new body-styles, including vans and stations wagons, alongside the traditional sedan and ute. Holden became more synonymous with Australian lifestyle, and the revamped Holden FE series soon became the first Holden to be assembled in New Zealand.

Soon, Holden also committed to moving upmarket, with their Brougham luxury sedan, and their spin-off brand, Statesman. The most important reveal for me, including many performance car enthusiasts, was the Holden Monaro, marking the beginning for half a century of Aussie muscle cars.

Credits to: Autocar (History Of Holden). Some early Holden utes.

The coveted Monaro had taken inspirations from American muscle cars of the era, such as the Mustang and Camaro, with its bold and masculine appearance. Combined with a large V8 engine, it provided plenty of power. Its brawn also proved helpful in motorsports, as the Monaro took an active role in the Bathurst 500 and the Australian Touring Car Championships.

This won't be the end of Holden's flirtations with large capacity engines, as they made the first Australian-designed and locally mass-produced V8 engine before the 70s. Speaking of, the 1970s saw Holden growing from strength to strength, following new innovations and trends in the automotive world.

Credits to: Petrolicious (Holden Is Oficially Dead), Autocar (History Of Holden)

It was in this era that Holden saw the release of the Commodore, an affordable family sedan that could ride across the tough and tumble Australian landscape. It became the staple for many households, and surely some of our friends from Down Under may have had some childhoods memories in them.

"Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos, and Holden cars. "

Holden advertisement (circa. 1970s).

The Declining Years.

Credits to: Petrolicious (Holden Is Oficially Dead)

The 1980s saw the beginning of Holden's decline, as the 1979s energy crisis saw a shift in consumer trends worldwide. As fuel prices became a burden for the average household, thirsty and large capacity cars like those in the US and Australia saw less sparkle, as more economical and practical cars from Europe and Japan started taking market share.

The 90s saw a revival for Holden, as they re-engineered their lineup to become more competitive, while their best selling Commodore continued to leave dealerships like hotcakes, and even exported in large numbers overseas.

Credits to: Autocar (History Of Holden)

However, the 2000s saw Holden getting into trouble once more, as economic tailwinds faired poorly for them. It at least saw the revival of the Monaro name, which was badged as a Pontiac GTO in the US, and as a Vauxhall in the UK. Among petrolheads, the Monaro was a legend for the growl of its V8, and its tail-happy rear-wheel drive layout.

The Commodore also saw good sales reception, but the Financial Crisis created more problems, as mass layoffs and factory closures began. Then came a largely missed opportunity, one that may have been able to save Holden.

Credits to: Autocar (History Of Holden). Here are some examples of rebadged Holdens.

As consumers began warming up to SUVs, Holden made the odd choice to not focus on them. They discontinued their large portfolio of 4x4 SUVs, only to be replaced by a front-wheel drive crossover, a rebadge of the Chevy Captiva.

The 2010s saw Holden on its deathbed. Poor sales, and failure to secure government funding saw Holden announcing the closure of their engine and vehicle manufacturing in 2013, which was to take effect by the end of 2017.

Credits to: Autocar (History Of Holden). Even at death's door, Holden still made great cars.

By now, Holden no longer made their own cars, and only offered customers rebadged versions of cars from other GM divisions, such as Buick, Opel, and Vauxhall. At this point, the concept of an Aussie-made car became a dream, as 2019 saw Holden record the lowest sales since 1948.

Finally on February 17th, 2020, General Motors decided to retire the Holden brand, ceasing its local sales, design, and engineering teams by 2021, as their customers will continue to be serviced by General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV).

Credits to: Petrolicious (Holden Is Oficially Dead). The last Holdens.

"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… "

Julian Blissett, Senior Vice-President, GM International Operations

What Happened?

Credits to: [GIPHY] (

This is another black mark for General Motors and its management, even as their board members continue to be paid millions. GM's CEO, Mary Barra is the highest paid Chief Executive in the auto industry, netting nearly $22 million in 2018, which is 295 times the earnings of an average GM employee.

I had an interesting conversation on Twitter, under one of the news threads announcing Holden's demise, when I came to the conclusion that GM is the Electronic Arts of the car-industry - as they continue to kill beloved brands and franchises for funding their next big plan. We also discussed what other brands under GM might get the axe in the future


GM - the Electronic Arts of the #car world 🔨. Not only did the suits at GM kill off Saab, but not they're killing off #Holden. Shame 😠!

— Zack Norman (@zacknorman97) February 17, 2020

I summarised my view of their management as "underperforming, but overpaid", as I recalled GM's closure of the car brands that we've grown up with, like SAAB and Pontiac, as GM's current stable of brands continue to slowly fade against its rivals.

The easiest way to see GM's leadership flaws is through the fate of Opel and Vauxhall, sister foreign brands under GM ownership, like Holden. After years of haemorrhaging money on Opel/Vauxhall, GM finally sold it to Groupe PSA, the parent company of Peugeot.

You could be right about that. GM needs to step up their game. Groupe PSA managed to turn around Opel/Vauxhall only moments after buying it over, even though GM spent years hemorrhaging money on them 💸.

— Zack Norman (@zacknorman97) February 17, 2020

Yep. An easy way to describe GM's management is "underperforming, but overpaid".

— Zack Norman (@zacknorman97) February 17, 2020

In just one year, PSA had managed to turn around Opel/Vauxhall back into profitability, while also outlying a plan for its future. This was all done under their stewardship, following along the same difficult global car markets, where GM has failed for years.

However, it won't be fair to pin the blame solely on GM, given how much the automotive landscape has changed in recent times. As we shift towards autonomy and electrification, carmakers have to scrounge all the money that they could find.

For General Motors, a company that hadn't truly gained its peak since their 2009 bailout - an ailing brand like Holden was a necessary sacrifice to spark the fires of their future ambitions.

Credits to: Petrolicious (Holden Is Oficially Dead)

Final Words.

It's sad to see Holden go, even though I haven't been alive long enough to see them at their best. In fact, throughout my life, I have rarely ever come across the name Holden, and my memories of their creations are sparse at best.

That said, its death has sparked an immediate sense of sadness in me, as I recall all the other great car brands that have been reduced to nothing, like Lancia, SAAB, or Kharmann.

The car industry is a merciless sport, where there's little margin for error, and every little mistake counts. As we lunge forwards into the future, how many more of our favourite car brands today that we have to say goodbye to? My hopes are that we get to say more cheerful hellos, and less painful farewells.

Credits to: [GIPHY] (

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