By on October 20, 2017

2016 Holden Commodore

Maybe the dingo ate your industry? No, that cruel joke doesn’t hold a grain of truth — Australia’s domestic auto industry simply fell victim to the harsh realities of economics and globalization.

No longer a captive market, no longer a country with steep walls built of tariffs, the land Down Under found it could no longer sustain its own vehicle manufacturing presence. Because of this, today marks the end of it all. Workers will leave the Holden assembly plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, closing the door on the GM subsidiary’s 69-year Aussie car-building history.

It seems the final vehicle to leave the plant was fittingly badass.

According to Motor Authority, the final vehicle produced on (red) home soil was a 2017 Holden Commodore SS-V Redline, the hottest model in Holden’s lineup, which rolled out of Elizabeth on Wednesday. (Watch the workers spell out their company’s name with their bodies in this poignant Australian Broadcasting Corporation segment.)

A full-size, rear-drive sedan, the top-flight Commodore packed a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 making 407 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Early-80s Mel Gibson would be proud.

From this day forward, all vehicles bought Down Under will be imported from other countries, including Holden vehicles. Toyota closed its assembly plant earlier this month, and Ford packed up last year.

Holden vehicles

It’s not just the manufacturing landscape that’s changing in Australia; so too is the range of vehicles Aussie have grown accustomed to. The advent of popular SUVs and crossovers means the car-based pickup, a quintessentially Australian vehicle, is no more. With the demise of local manufacturing, the Commodore-based — and Australia-only — Holden Ute is also extinct. Ford’s Falcon Ute, a long-time competitor, ceased production in 2016.

The Falcon nameplate, first affixed to a revolutionary (and quite bland) compact car in the U.S. for the 1960 model year, soldiered on Down Under for decades with a traditional rear-drive layout.

Holden’s manufacturing absence in Australia also has implications for American buyers. The Commodore-based U.S.-market Chevrolet Caprice PPV, in production for six years, was the hot rod of law enforcement fleets, though it never attained the popularity of its Ford and Dodge counterparts. Orders closed at the end of February.

The model’s civilian version, the Chevrolet SS, bit the dust this spring. As a full-size, rear-wheel drive sedan with a naturally aspirated V8 and available manual transmission, the SS was a low-volume throwback that buyers only started noticing when it was too late.

[Images: General Motors]

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43 Comments on “This Is the End: R.I.P., Australian-built Automobiles...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    It’s a sad day, Holden’s twitter account is replying to a lot of responses almost looking like damage control.
    It’s a car you can’t fully respect until you have seat time, then it makes you wonder why the Germans (and to a lesser extent Americans) suck so badly at building sports cars. This car is definitely one to have two of, might see about getting a LHD ute or another VF2. It has become a chore to be away from it for more than a couple days, there’s an unexplainable quality about it that makes it irresistible. Not to mention it’s leagues more practical and user friendly than the Camaro we get shoved down our throats by GM US.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      A) Holden didn’t make any sports cars so I’m not sure why you’re on about Germans and Americans building them poorly.
      B) I seem to recall a certain brand of sports car built in Stuttgart that doesn’t suck.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Sports sedans whatever, compare the Holden’s to the M series.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          If they were that good Holden would not be going out of business. They’re crude and ancient.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Explain. The suspension was designed by BMW engineers, and even performs better with the magnetic ride control in comparison tests. The engine is an LS3, not even somewhat ancient, still the go to engine for most high power projects, Tremec feels great, gets great MPG, the zeta platform is miles ahead of the Alpha I’ve felt in the ATS and new Camaro. What exactly is ancient?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “They’re crude and ancient.”

            That just makes me want it more.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Max Rockatansky should be very mad, or sad.

    Guess that an Australian political party could campaign under the Make Australia Great Again slogan and recommend re-introducing tariff walls?

    And is anyone else experiencing torturous sign-in experiences with the TTAC site?

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      Too late now. If it was too expensive to continue manufacturing in existing plants, forget about starting again from scratch. Plus the supply industry has either moved on or shut down too.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    People did not buy enough cars to make it worthwhile to continue to make them in Australia. No profit, no jobs. It is that simple.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      ^this^

      Nobody (in Australia) who hasn’t bought a Holden or Falcon in the past few years has any right to complain. “They should keep on building cars we don’t buy! Sure I bought a Corolla, because reasons!”

      • 0 avatar
        nvinen

        Between my dad and I, we bought two V8 Falcons and one SSV Redline. So I guess we have the right to complain…

        FWIW, on the street, the Falcons blow the Commodore away in terms of power and handling and exhaust note. I haven’t driven them on the track so can’t comment about that.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      In fact they sold quite well. The Commodore design is 20 years old (it came out in 1998) and GM isn’t interested in upgrading. They were going to use the Insignia a few years ago but then GM lost billions on the dodgy Family I serie II engines in Europe so they pulled out there as well.

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        You are obviously forgetting the VE Commodore was all-new in 2006, other than the 3.6 V6 and perhaps differential I doubt there is anything significant that has been carried over from the old Opel-based car, and the engine has been updated with direct injection since then. Still due for renewal of course, but not that outdated.

        Also to Steph, Holden has been building car bodies since 1917 as a supplier when cars were imported as bare chassis (due to import regulations of the time!), before it was bought by GM in 1931, so it has more than 69 years of car-building history. There were cars here before 1948.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    Good thing they dropped all those tariffs.

    I know free trade means cheaper products for everyone bla bla bla but I bet Australians would like to have an auto industry. I bet the workers making those cars do too. Same for local suppliers and so forth.

    But tallguy, what about all the cheap goods people will be able to buy now that free trade has come to Australia? Yep things will never be cheaper. I can’t argue with that. All it costs are the jobs of your neighbors and a fundamental restructuring of the economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      tallguy,
      What is the unemployment rate in Australia and how much were the Holdens and Fords subsidised?

      Falcon $7 000 each. Not one taxpayer should foot a bill like that.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        Do you have a source for that Al? The highest number I could find was 2500 dollars and that was attributed to high labor cost in Australia. I am not familiar with that last bit.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          http://www.news.com.au/opinion/why-2b-in-government-subsidies-wouldnt-have-saved-ford-manufacturing-in-australia/news-story/2e7541df5ab4bc87e00189faa54bbdfc

          http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/ford-shutdown-taxpayers-spent-7000-for-every-ford-falcon-fourcylinder-built/news-story/e04cc568268e03740fce99b925b19800

          Here’s an excerpt from an article with the link. Remember Australia had less than 15 million and up to 22 million people and the money and protection offered to the manufacturers was ridiculous, just like the US industry.

          The excerpt and link;
          “Over the past two decades alone, sustaining this uncompetitive industry required $35 billion or so in consumer or taxpayer subsidy that acted as a dead weight on the rest of the economy.

          Read more: Over the past two decades alone, sustaining this uncompetitive industry required $35 billion or so in consumer or taxpayer subsidy that acted as a dead weight on the rest of the economy.

          http://www.afr.com/opinion/editorials/ending-a-vehicle-of-economic-folly-20171019-gz4497

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Was every Falcon a 4 cylinder? I ask because that is the model that the 7000 dollar figure is affixed to.

            Not that I’d want to pay it were I an Australian taxpayer, but it wasn’t for every Falcon.

            Anyway from what I can glean from your articles the auto industry there was a victim of the perfect storm of it being expensive to do business there and radically changing tastes. It didn’t make sense to sink the money in to change based on the market size. Now you get exported models…not a huge deal based on your market size.

            Not really the same as the US industry either because first off, with the exception of electrics, which have a temporary subsidy ours aren’t that high and secondly the US auto industry is about 1/3 the entire economic output of Australia so simply letting it die is a far more difficult decision.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            L’il,
            In 2013 the US was subsidising each vehicle to the tune of $3500USD.

            It’s amazing what protectionism does.

            The biggest downside is the consumer pays with higher taxes and higher vehicle prices.

          • 0 avatar
            outback_ute

            “Was every Falcon a 4 cylinder? I ask because that is the model that the 7000 dollar figure is affixed to.”

            No, just a tiny number had the 2.0 Ecoboost; I would guess single digit percentage. That figure comes the $42m grant to go towards the cost of developing the 4-cyl, diesel Territory and EcoLPI liquid-injection LPG systems; $14m was for the Ecoboost, source below which includes the quote “Former Rudd Government spent $14 million taxpayer dollars on a four-cylinder Ford Falcon — and then bought just seven cars.”

            The 4-cyl was only ever intended to get the CO2 figures below 200g/km and thus unlock sales to fleets that would not purchase cars otherwise. Any private sales were a bonus (my opinion). That they were chasing low-margin sales says a lot about the validity of the project, even before you consider it only sold 2,000 cars, and I think they would have been better off putting the diesel in the Falcon sedan and ute instead.

            http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/fourcylinder-ford-falcon-sales-flop-despite-14-million-taxpayer-dollars/news-story/c99935c321a4601ca4cf9a6e8f5083ee

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      ” All it costs are the jobs of your neighbors and a fundamental restructuring of the economy.” Welcome to globalization. Adapt or die. Or work at Wal-Mart.

  • avatar
    dkleinh

    “This is the end, beautiful friend, the end. Of our elaborate plans the end….”

  • avatar

    Very sad , as i came home in a Holden when i was born, as my parents were from Fiji. Can i still get chassis parts for a 2006 GTO?

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    ” The final VFII Redline Commodore, with a manual transmission, rolled off the line about 10.45 on Friday morning, cheered on by the hundreds of Holden workers who had stayed to the end.”

    right transmission too and colour

    they didnt respond to the market

    they needed to be making FWD $30k SUVs like the RAV4 CRV Xtrail/Rouge Tuscon/Sportage.

  • avatar

    Over the past decade there were plenty of opportunities to start something automotive down yonder, particularly with the abundance of solar energy. Heck, Tesla could have, perhaps even should have been an AU enterprise. At the same time I guess that the sun burning down on Aussie skulls must have affected creativity. Tell tale sign that the Dutch famous for having overcast most of the time manage to win the Solar Challenge, held in Australia, year after year.

  • avatar
    eyeofthetiger

    I am so sorry for the loss of the Ute. I have so many questions, yet so few answers. The world is a horrible, cruel, and Uteless place. Nothing makes sense. I cannot live like this.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do believe it is sad to see the vehicle manufacturing disappear from Oz.

    There were a few things that could of been done by Ford and GM to maintain some production. Holden and Ford built very good performance sedans, wagons and utes.

    Maybe HSV could of been the vehicle to replace Caddy and FPV to replace Lincoln against the Europeans.

    There is some positive out of all of this. The high paying design and engineering remains in Australia. One Australia does better than most any other country is the ability to design great vehicles.

  • avatar

    I guess the reason GM filled a lot of its North American design positions with Australians was out of sympathy.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Maybe coincidental, but I saw my first civilian-owned Chevrolet SS on RT 395 about to head up to Lake Tahoe on Thursday. A thirty-something guy was behind the wheel. As with the 2004-2006 GTO and 2008 Pontiac G8, I’m glad he thought to support GM by buying one of the best late-model products from them, for what little good it did in the long run.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    The most telling indictment of the car industry in Australia was told by the ex boss of Mitsubishi Australia (Manufacturing). He pointed out that the best selling individual vehicle, not brand, was the Toyota Hi-Lux of around 42,000 vehicles. At that rate no manufacturer could build a vehicle and stay profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Yea when I saw that it was no wonder they were closing. When they can sell junk from 3rd world countries with no tariffs it’s the beginning of the end of an industry. I hope they know Ugg boots can only keep Australia afloat for so long.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        a counterpoint to that is that in the best years say more than a decade ago, a single model of vehicle would sell 100,000 examples a year

        in that case there is a profitable business model

        but as said often, if you have a market with 60 plus brands and thousands of models and more consumer choice than ever AND a poor local offering then yeah, its over

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          The sad thing is that there will likely never again be any vehicle manufacturers on the continent ever again. Like was previously mentioned suppliers required two manufacturers to keepdoors open, Toyota was willing to stay but Holden wasn’t playing ball.

          I don’t see how any Australian couldn’t see fault in this. Who cares if China can sell you something at 2/3s the price if you don’t have a job to buy it. Too many choices is extremely bad as we can see here.

          As Australia puts another nail in their middle class’s coffin, both Australia and the world lose a culture driven product that made everywhere it treaded a little brighter.

          Kangaroos, meat pies, and German cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VGW-WX77zjY

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Hummer,
            They aren’t middle class jobs any longer. That’s why you can buy them cheaper else where.

            Many consumer items that can be bought cheaper via imports doesn’t denote middle class jobs.

            Why do you think American Axle and some other auto manufactuers/suppliers resorted to $10ph wages? Because they were offering middle class jobs??

            30+ years ago they may have been middle class jobs when process work was the domain of the OECD economies.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Hummer, over the past 5 years, Australia has generally experienced GDP growth in the range of 2-3% p.a., which is not bad at all.

            Unemployment has been trending downward since 2014, now sits at 5.5%.

            Apparently, Australian prosperity isn’t dependent on massively taxpayer-subsidized manufacturing (another name for corporate welfare) of a small number of cars and trucks.

            No need to cry, at all.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Here’s an interesting set of slides for our Muscle Car brethren in the US.

    https://www.msn.com/en-ae/cars/enthusiasts/25-muscle-cars-that-aren%e2%80%99t-american/ss-AAtLY10?ocid=spartandhp

  • avatar
    pb35

    Don’t blame me, I purchased an SS in 2016 and another one in 2017!

    It may be crude and ancient but so am I. RIP

  • avatar

    One thing I cannot understand about Australians is how they walk and drive cars upside down.

  • avatar
    dahammer

    http://www.go-dove.com/en/events?cmd=details&event=641116&utm_source=Eloqua&utm_medium=email&utm_content=week-1&utm_campaign=gidb_2018_q1_nov_apac_au_en_641116_ia_e2_im%2Fhandling%2Fnon_time

    Just received the announcement, the equipment is being auctioned.

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