Holden has been a key part of the Australian automotive industry since it launched the first all-Australian motor vehicle in the late 1940’s. The FX Holden was unveiled by Prime Minister Ben Chifley on the 29th of November 1948, with 18,000 people paying a deposit without even having seen one in person.
Since then, Holden hasn’t looked back, increasing its sales rapidly over the years. As at January 2018, there were more than 2.3 million Holdens in the Australian car parc (out of approx. 18 million total vehicles), making it one of the clear market leaders. It’s no surprise that the Holden Commodore plays a significant role in this success, with more than 1 million Commodores currently registered in Australia (second most common is the Holden Rodeo at 180,000 units). Looking at the Commodore in more detail, they’ve definitely been built to last, with one in six of them first registered before 2000.
Fast forward to today, and the world has changed. In October 2017, after 69 years of local car manufacturing, Holden shut its final manufacturing plant in Australia. Holden is now reliant on rebadged models from GM brands like Opel, GMC, and Chevrolet, with the current model Commodore based on the Opel Insignia.
To date, the changes haven’t however proven successful, with Holden’s sales down from 90,306 in 2017 to 60,751 in 2018, and Commodore sales declining from 27,676 units in 2017 to just 9,040 for the fully-imported model in 2018. This is in stark contrast to Toyota and Ford, with both brands more effectively transitioning away from local manufacturing after closing their Australian plants. Both brands did however always import a number of their top models, and were themselves imports to begin with (from Japan and the US respectively). Ultimately, it looks like the imported Commodores are just not ‘True Blue’ in the eyes of Australian buyers.
Looking now to Holden’s future, we’re still left with more questions than answers. Will Australians continue to move to competitors like Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia etc, or will the launch of new models like the GMC-derived Holden Equinox and Holden Acadia help curb the decline in sales?
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