The Good Oil: The day the first domino fell for the Australian car industry
Search Driven for Holden for sale
A long time in this business, being lucky enough to represent big publications like DRIVEN, has afforded me the opportunity for a few “I was there” moments over the past 27 years.
It’s the 10th anniversary of DRIVEN this week (so it’s a newbie, really). We’ve spent a lot of time in the office and on these pages reflecting how the car business has changed in the last decade.
The morning of May 23, 2013 still stands out in my memory. It was the launch of the Holden Commodore VF, even then generally known to be the last rear-drive Commodore and yet also a machine charged with pushing the brand’s manufacturing base forward.
Holden was hosting media in Canberra to drive the VF, right on the doorstep of the Australian Government as crucial debate was going on about the future of the country’s carmaking industry.
Then, just as we'd finished the morning bacon rolls, Ford Australia announced it would be shutting up shop in October 2016. The timing seemed especially cruel to its long-time rival, although the company later said it was coincidental.
Managing director Mike Devereux was along for the launch of such an important new car and he remained upbeat: “We believe it [manufacturing] can survive and has adjusted in large part already, given Ford’s relatively low production volumes… We have a solid plan”.
At the time Holden had a $275m subsidy until 2022, looking ahead to two new car lines – one likely to be a front-drive replacement for the Commodore.
It didn’t pan out. Toyota Australia’s February 2014 announcement that it would also end local assembly in 2017 was a further blow.
In January 2017, Holden announced it would close its factories on October 20 the same year. It then poured its heart, soul and money into “Australianising” the fully imported ZB Commodore.
But on February 20, 2020 it announced the Holden brand would be withdrawn from the market for good, by the end of the year.
So in DRIVEN’s 10th anniversary year, let’s pause for a moment to consider that it’s also the first in over seven decades that New Zealand is without an Australian new-vehicle brand on the market, and just say thanks for all the skids.