Is there much life left in Holden?


With local manufacturing concluded, Holden must switch to a full line importer. But should General Motors continue with the Holden name in Australia? 

I was genuinely saddened when production of the VF Commodore ended on the 20th of October, 2017. It spelled the end of a large part of Australia’s history, and it put many men and women out of work, but it was also the end of a world class product that was the VF Commodore.

Last Holden Commodore

Quality niggles aside, the VF and the related Caprice were properly good products – they handled well, the V8s were quick and they were comfortable and well-equipped. The Americans were fans of the Commodore and Caprice too, with the Caprice serving as a police car in some parts of the USA.

Holden Caprice

The VF was at the end of a long line of products dating back to 1948 made in Australia for Australians. But, times and consumer wants and needs have changed which has meant shoppers are no longer patriotic, they want the best bang for their buck – most likely an SUV – and as such, are more than happy to splash their cash on imported metal. And, with many importers offering deals. Just look at the rise of Hyundai, Kia and Mazda. And Toyota – now also a full-line importer – has been at the top of the sales charts for years.

Making cars in Australia was no longer financially viable. But Holden was left with a gaping hole in their line-up. The answer was to re-badge the next generation German-made Opel Insignia as the next generation Holden Commodore.

This decision is interesting on a number of levels. Firstly, the Commodore has always been rear-wheel drive. The Opel will only be offered as a front (what in the name!) wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The V8 is gone. As is the ute. And don’t expect shouty and brash sports versions. The sportiest new Commodore will be the understated V6-powered Commodore VXR.

ZB Commodore VXR - Motorclassica 2017

Holden themselves have admitted that the new Commodore will appeal to a new customer base, perhaps someone that would have otherwise a Volkswagen Passat, a Ford Mondeo, Mazda6 or even (gasp) a Toyota Camry. But this makes me ask a number of questions. Would someone who is in the market for a mid-size car want a “Commodore” badge on the rump of their car? And has Holden abandoned its traditional customer base? Potentially.

Let me clarify something before I continue. I don’t think the new Commodore will be a bad car. It’ll most likely handle well, it’ll be tech laden and I’m sure it’ll be very comfortable. It’ll probably even perform well.

Matters have been further complicated for Holden when General Motors decided to off-load Opel to French automotive conglomerate PSA Group. Granted, there’ll be some sort of agreement that allows Holden and GM to continue to sell the Commodore/Insignia and Astra for some time. But for how long? And what will GM do when that time inevitably comes around?

They’ll have to pluck something else from the General Motors catalogue. And that’s the thing. Every car sold in Holden showrooms bar the Astra hatch is sold as a Chevrolet elsewhere. The new Equinox, that’s a Chevy and the new full-size Acadia SUV, that’s a GMC.

Holden Acadia

And Holden plans to reinvigorate its model line-up with 24 new or heavily revised models by the year 2020.

All these new models will offer customers more choice, and potentially better quality products that have ever been offered in Australia and it potentially import the luxury brand Cadillac, which would be a smart move as it could restore some of that lost rear-drive V8 sedan passion that was lost with the Commodore and it could give GM a slice of the rapidly growing Australian luxury car market.

Holden has also committed to importing the Camaro and Corvette, but has said these models will retain their Chevrolet badging. So Holden plans to introduce two show stopping hero cars that won’t even carry the Holden name. I smell a rat.

Chevrolet Camaro

If you’re going to bring in a couple of hero cars to promote your brand, you’d want them to carry your brand name. Yet the American sportsters will be promoting Chevrolet.

So let’s surmise – Holden no longer makes cars in Australia and all of its imported models are sold as Chevys elsewhere. Its locally made range of cars – which were the main reason the Holden name existed in the first place – have been replaced by a European car which might have a short lived future anyway.

It pains me to say this, but the Holden name must die. It doesn’t make sense to keep it going. The inherent sense of “Australian-ness” is no longer there and the Commodore name needs to be retired out of respect to the great men and women that worked on the production lines at Elizabeth. They’ve made it clear they don’t want the Opel to be called Commodore anyway.  And without Commodore there isn’t Holden, there’s Chevrolet.

The founding father of The Motoring Guru, Matt has been a lifelong car enthusiast and a passionate writer. Back in 2013 when The Motoring Guru was first launched, Matt wanted to combine his two passions whilst offering readers sound motoring advice.