This Is the End: R.I.P., Australian-built Automobiles

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
this is the end r i p australian built automobiles

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.

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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  • Alan I don't know how well Mustangs are selling in the US, but here in Australia since its release a while back Mustang sales have taken a nose dive. Maybe those who wanted a Mustang have bought, or Ford needs a new Mustang model, maybe both.
  • Alan GM is still dying. The US auto manufacturing sector overall needs to restructure. It is heavily reliant on large protected vehicles with far more protection than the EU has on its vehicles (25% import tariff).Globally GM has lost out in the EU, UK, Australia, etc. GM has shut down in Australia because it is uncompetitive in a global market. Ford still exists in Australia but is reliant on a Thai manufactured pickup, the Ranger which is Australia's second largest selling vehicle.The US needs to look at producing global products, not 'murica only products. Asians and Europeans can do it. America is not unique.
  • Duane Baldinger Ya my cupcake Mailman will love it!
  • Duane Baldinger Where can I send the cash? It's a surprise BDAY present for my cupcake Mailman. D Duane
  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation