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The Lion sleeps tonight: Holden's last day in Australia

By Tim Robson, 31 Dec 2020 Car News

The Lion sleeps tonight: Holden's last day in Australia

The slow bleed-out of an Australian icon winds up tonight, as Holden dealers pull the curtain closed on sales

As it turned out, WhichCar attended the last vehicle launch that Holden would ever hold – but at the time, we had no idea that was the case.

It was an unusual trip, too; we expected to drive – or at least hear about – the long-overdue update to the Colorado ute on a quick trip to Thailand in December 2019.

Instead, we sampled a brace of Thai-market Chevrolet Colorados and a couple of current-spec Holdens plucked off the line at Rayong.

Holden Colorado 2020A shot from that last trip in December 2020/Tim Robson

Our Holden hosts were tight-lipped about… well, everything, too.

While it was frustrating from a newshound’s point of view, it was understandable – this was a company under siege. In the face of tanking sales, rumblings about the company’s future had already started.

General Motors had been caught shopping the Holden brand to auto importer Inchcape earlier in the year, while the sale of Commodore maker Opel to Peugeot’s owner PSA in September also set tongues wagging.

The departure of vaunted industry veteran Dave Buttner from the CEO role on the eve of our trip, after just 16 months in the job, was also off-limits, as was any discussion about the future of the Commodore or Colorado.

THE LAST COMMODORE The amazing tale of how the last Aussie-made Commodore was saved

In fact, the Commodore was cut from the local lineup four days after we returned from the trip – a plan that was definitely locked in before we bombed into Bangkok International.

History will show that General Motors pulled the rug out from underneath Holden in mid-February 2020, ending a 160-year legacy at the stroke of a pen.

And the Rayong plant? Sold virtually the same day…

As the end of 2020 draws in, Holden dealers are few and far between, while the huge discounts that produced a flurry of final sales for Holden end at midnight tonight.

Key staff have been quietly exiting the company over the course of the last eight months, including the talented design team, engineering support and back-office workers.

Thanks in part to COVID-19 but mostly, I think, because of an enduring sadness of the way it's all gone down, Holden will simply fade out of existence. No closing ceremony, no final press call. 

The HQ at Fishermans Bend will be partly repurposed into city housing and the other parts handed over to Vinfast, which also now has the keys to the Lang Lang proving ground. The Elizabeth factory in South Australia is long gone.

Tens of thousands of workers who served Australia well over the decades will no doubt pause and reflect on Holden's demise, as will its legions of loyal fans.

Let’s look back at a few of the key stories that told the Holden tale best, brought to you by WhichCar’s team of motoring experts.

Vale Holden./Tim Robson

Looking back: Holden’s countdown to destruction

Bruce Newton examines in detail the timeline that led to Holden’s decision to exit local manufacturing in 2017.

Wheels magazine, motoring, holden, timeline, to, destruction 

Ford quits Australia: what now for manufacturing?

Anna Kantilaftas reports on the first domino to fall – the announcement by Ford Australia to end manufacturing in Australia.

Holden Manufacturing Plant

D-day for Holden

Wheels reports on the tumultuous events of late 2013, with the Australian government daring Holden chief Denny Mooney (below) to withdraw from the country.

Holden Commodore VE Engineer Interview feature

Tracking Holden’s decline

This comprehensive data set shows in black and white just how far Holden had slipped since 1996

 

Holden to exit Australia

One of the busiest days in our newsrooms’ collective histories as we pull together all the facts and figures around the momentous decision.

2019 Holden Commodore

Secret documents reveal lost Holden opportunities

The Commodore VE could have spawned a brace of cars that may have changed the course of the company's destiny, reported Cameron Kirby.

Secret documents reveal lost VE Commodore variants – including a Torana!

 

GM’s treatment of dealers “incredibly reckless”, inquiry told

Holden’s exit from Australia has been a catastrophe, with enraged dealers suing the company and government inquires instigated to resolve the issues.

 

Sign of the times as Holden sheds the Lion

Tim Robson was on the spot as a dealership debranded itself of its Holden signage.

Holden onto what matters

To mark the end of Holden manufacturing in Australia, we gathered together the largest number of vehicles in Wheels history at the Lang Lang proving ground.

READ MORE