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Holden is no more: General Motors announces the 164-year-old Aussie auto brand will be axed by the end of the year

James Hennessy
  • General Motors has announced the end of the Holden brand, with sales, design and engineering operations to wrap up in Australia by the end of the year.
  • All existing service agreements and warranties will be honoured, and servicing and spare parts will be offered for at least ten years.
  • GM says it made numerous efforts to resuscitate the flagging brand, but could not find a profitable long-term solution.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

The legendary Australian auto brand Holden is no more. General Motors (GM) has announced sales, design and engineering operations will finish up in Australia by 2021 – marking the end of a 164-year history.

In a statement released this morning, the US automaker's senior vice president of international operations Julian Blissett said the company had made numerous efforts to turn around the flagging brand, but to no avail.

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

“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.”

Blissett said GM undertook a "detailed analysis" of what would be required to make Holden profitable beyond the current generation, but could not. Among the issues blamed for the inability to make Holden profitable in the long-term was the "fragmented" right-hand drive market and broader economic issues.

“This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team," Blissett goes on to say.

General Motors says its Australian growth strategy going forward will focus on the specialty vehicles business. All existing warranties and service offers for Holden vehicles will be honoured. The company will offer servicing and spare parts for at least ten years via its Australian and New Zealand after-sales network.

The company will work with existing Holden dealers on a transition plan, which may involve "the opportunity to continue as authorised service outlets to support Holden customers."

“Today’s announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holdens, drive Holdens and feel connected to our company which has been with us for 160 years and is almost ubiquitous in our lives," said GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina.

“Unfortunately, all the hard work and talent of the Holden family, the support of our parent company GM and the passion of our loyal supporters have not been enough to overcome our challenges.

“We understand the impact of this decision on our people, our customers, our dealers and our partners – and will work closely with all stakeholders to deliver a dignified and respectful transition.”

The writing was on the wall

In December, Holden announced the end of its iconic Commodore after 40 years, citing a shift in consumer tastes to the "high driving position, functionality and versatility of SUVs and utes.”

At its peak in 1998, Commodores in Australia accounted for 217,882 sales. In 2019, that number slid to around 8,700 units.

It followed the last breath of Aussie car manufacturing in 2017, when Holden closed its factory in South Australia.

General Motors has been making a slow exit from the right-hand-drive (RHD) market globally, and Holden was the final major holdout. According to CarAdvice, GM had already retreated from other lucrative RHD markets like the United Kingdom, Japan, India and South Africa, leaving only Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Right-hand-drive vehicles make up about 25% of automotive sales globally.

With the death of Holden, it also signals General Motors' final withdrawal from the RHD market.