Wondering Why Holden Drove Over A Cliff? Have A Look Around Next Time You're On The Road
Holden’s agonisingly slow death is now complete.
The once cherished icon of the Australian motoring landscape is gone.
At its peak, Holden had more than 50 percent of the automobile market share in Australia. Born in Adelaide as a horse saddle company, JA Holden & Co, the name itself is over 160 years old.
Holden is about as Aussie as it gets.
But since 1924, Holden was controlled by (and tied to the fate of) its American parent, General Motors (GM). And for almost its entire existence, Holden was forced to compete with Ford, which was recognised as a truly global brand.
That fierce competitive legacy is part of why today is such a powerful loss. Even the most fervent Ford or motoring fan would have at least an ounce of remorse.
GM International Operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett delivered the bad news. “After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritise the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally,” he said, pointing towards the history of the brand and its "industrialisation and advancement of Australia and New Zealand".
This collapse has been a long time in the making.
In 2009, after the global financial crisis, GM went bankrupt and needed to be bailed out by the US government. This set in play a sequence of devastating blows for little old Holden, making it unable to commit to or plan for new, locally made cars.
In 2012, Holden spent $1 billion to make two new models. The Australian government even chipped in to give the local car industry a boost. But by 2017, its Adelaide factory had closed, bringing the end of Australian car manufacturing.
I have always been a Holden man. I loved my VE Holden Calais V8, despite the fact it burns 70-litres of fuel just doing a lap around the neighbourhood. (The removal of that V8 engine almost put the Public Order and Riot squad on notice.)
The Bathurst 1000 was a staple of my childhood. At the top of Mount Panorama, Holden and Ford fans often came close to tearing each other apart. The rivalry was so intense and somewhat odd -- it was like you were born a red lion or blue oval fan.
Brock, Skaife and Lowndes were the names in the spotlight. But behind the scenes was a busy workforce of dealers, development teams and suppliers. As a result, today’s news is the biggest story in Australian motoring history.
The next time you go for a drive, have a look around. The top selling vehicle in the country is a ute and Aussie families firmly lean on the SUV trend. Korean brands like Kia and Hyundai now offer top shelf quality and aftermarket service and long warranties. The writing was always on the wall.
The new car market has fallen off a cliff this year. New car subscription companies like Car Next Door remove all the hassles of buying and maintaining a car. The peer-to-peer system allows drivers to rent out their own cars instead of them sitting idle in a car park all day.
Have you tried to buy a car recently? It’s like building a house -- very time consuming and prone to overruns when it comes to your budget. Given buying a car is often the second biggest purchase you’ll make, it’s easy to see why people are drawn to new opportunities to only have a car when needed.
As you drive home tonight, there’s a good chance you’ll drive past a Holden dealership. Just for a minute just think about what that lion logo represented for so long.
Life will go on, of course, but it’s a very sad day. Several hundred people have to reconsider their future and another piece of our national fabric unravels.
RIP Holden, 1856 -- 2020.