General Motors (GM) announced the news on the 16th of February in a press statement that addressed the progress they had made in accelerating the transformation of its international markets. In the statement, GM announced that it would wind down all sales, design and engineering operations in Australia and New Zealand, retire the Holden brand by 2021, and focus its strategies for the market on GM’s specialty vehicle business. GM’s President Mark Reuss told the press that despite exploring alternate options, none were compatible with Australia’s competitive right-hand-drive market. GM stressed that existing Holden customers would have all warranties and servicing offers honored. Furthermore, they stated that Holden will provide servicing and offer spare parts for at least ten years through aftersales networks in Australia and New Zealand.
On the 17th of February, Holden issued a similar press statement regarding its retirement. In this statement, GM International Operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett provided insight into the brand’s closure: “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. After a 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.”
Holden’s retirement comes after a difficult period for the brand. However, before this time, Holden was successful in Australia and across the globe. They began building car bodies in 1914 before securing a partnership with GM ten years later. Holden’s partnership with GM developed in 1931 when they merged, becoming ‘General Motors Holden’. Shortly after, Holden’s Port Melbourne factory begun operation – assembling cars using American parts. The first car launched by the Australian automaker was the Holden 48-215 in 1948. The 1950s and 1960s saw the brand produce a range of new cars including the FJ, EH and Kingswood – the EH alone saw over 250,000 units built in less than two years. The 1970s were significant for Holden: in 1971 their second-generation Kingswood model became their best-selling model of all time, with nearly 500,000 units built in three years. Furthermore, 1978 saw the launch of the Holden Commodore – one of their most popular vehicles to date. The Commodore saw success in the late 1990s and early 2000s during its third generation of models. In 1996, the Commodore began its fifteen-year run as Australia’s favorite car, then between 1997 and 2000 around 300,000 Commodore VT models were built. Holden went on to build over 207,000 Commodore VX models between 2000 and 2002. Over the course of the 2000s, new Commodore and Caprice models were built and a new-generation Monaro also launched – the first Monaro since the 1970s.
It is unfortunate to see Holden close following its extensive history. Although, it was to be expected following its factory closures and poor turnaround in the final years of its operation. While the number of redundancies from the closure was not confirmed by either company, GM did confirm that it has over 800 employees in Australia & New Zealand. Holden confirmed that its employees affected by the closure would receive redundancy packages.