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Legendary Holden Brand Is Dead as GM Leaves Australia after 89 Years

Colin Beresford
Photo credit: William West/Getty Images

From Car and Driver

  • By the end of the year, General Motors' Holden brand will be no more as the company exits New Zealand and Australia, in addition to withdrawing Chevrolet from Thailand.
  • The move comes as GM is focusing its efforts on future technologies, including electrification and autonomous vehicles.
  • GM is betting big on electric, aiming to offer 20 different full-electric vehicles by 2023.

General Motors is bringing its Holden brand to an end by 2021 as it withdraws from Australia and New Zealand, in addition to pulling Chevrolet out of Thailand, the company said in a statement over the weekend. The manufacturer is looking to limit exposure to challenging overseas markets and focus its efforts on investing in autonomous and electric technologies. GM expects the overhaul to cost $1.1 billion.

Photo credit: William West/Getty Images

Holden, an iconic Australian brand, got its start in 1856 as a saddlemaker before transitioning to cars in 1908. General Motors bought the company in 1931. For nearly a century, the company under GM ownership produced utility vehicles but, to Americans, may be best known for powerful, muscular sedans such as the Monaro and the Commodore.

Holden has been on a downward slope, posting its lowest sales since 1954 in 2019, including a 50 percent decrease in sales in the last two years. From a peak of 217,882 sales in 1998, Holden sales fell in 2019 to about 8700 units.

As a part of the transition, GM is selling its manufacturing plant in Thailand to China’s Great Wall Motors. Since its bankruptcy in 2009, GM has been downsizing, which included pulling Chevrolet out of Europe in 2013 and selling its Opel and Vauxhall brands to the PSA Group in 2017.

"I've often said that we will do the right thing, even when it's hard, and this is one of those times," GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "We are restructuring our international operations, focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in the areas of EVs and AVs."

GM has been focusing its efforts recently on electrification. Just last month it announced it would be spending $3 billion investment for production of various electric vehicles and an autonomous one. Of that investment, $2.2 billion is set aside to convert the company's Detroit-Hamtramck plant to one devoted to building electric vehicles. The manufacturer is planning to offer 20 electric vehicles in its lineup by 2023 and recently announced that one of those vehicles would be an all-electric Hummer.

General Motors said that with changing priorities, keeping Holden running was not feasible especially with the investments necessary for a "highly-fragmented right-hand-drive market." Holden ceased production in its last Australian factory in 2017, becoming an all-import brand in 2018.

"After 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," GM international operations executive Julian Blissett said in a statement. "This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team."

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