The Holden Commodore is dead at 42

Holden has announced the Commodore will be pulled from Australian showrooms 12 months from now – three years after switching to an imported model following the end of local manufacturing in 2017.

It will bring to an end 42 years of the Holden Commodore name, which lasted even longer than the iconic Holden Kingswood.

It is a dramatic fall from grace for the former Aussie favourite that was the nation’s top-selling car for a record 15 years in a row, from 1996 to the end of 2011.

Next year will be the last for the Holden Commodore.
Next year will be the last for the Holden Commodore.

However, the writing was on the wall for the Commodore a decade ago as buyers shifted to small cars, SUVs and utes – as family and fleet sedans became passe.


At the time, marketing experts said there was a new generation of car buyers who “don’t aspire to owning what their dad had as a company car when they were growing up”.

The decline of the Commodore accelerated after the closure of the factory in Elizabeth near Adelaide in October 2017, when Holden switched to an imported model from Germany.

The last VFII Commodore Redline to come out of the Elizabeth factory in Adelaide on October 20, 2017.
The last VFII Commodore Redline to come out of the Elizabeth factory in Adelaide on October 20, 2017.Credit: Supplied

For the first time in the Commodore’s history there was no V8 and the vehicle that replaced it was more of a competitor to the Toyota Camry than a performance hero.

The company also said on Tuesday that it would “retire” the Astra hatchback in 2020.

Rumours about the demise of the Holden Commodore – and the Astra hatch – have been circulating for more than a year after weaker than expected sales of the imported models.

As recently as last week, Holden issued a statement declaring the future of the Commodore was safe even though its twin in the US – sold there as a Buick – was axed from North American showrooms.

At its peak Holden sold more than 94,500 Australian-made Commodores in 1998; this year it is on track to sell about 6000 imported examples. In its prime, Holden would comfortably sell more than 6000 Commodores in a single month.

The Holden Commodore experienced its longest winning streak against its arch rival, the Ford Falcon, for two decades, from 1996 and all the way to the end of Falcon production in late 2016.

The industry is now speculating what the future holds for Holden as a brand now that it has streamlined its range to a handful of SUVs and a ute.

Holden dealers, who spoke to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald  on condition of anonymity, said they had seen the Commodore announcement coming as it had been difficult to order future models into next year.

“We knew something wasn’t quite right, even when we tried to place orders [for the Commodore] for next year, we were being told impossibly late delivery dates,” said one veteran Holden dealer. “Now we know why.”

Holden Commodore by the numbers

94,642: Holden Commodore peak sales, in 1998

6000: Approximately how many Commodores will be sold in 2019

1978: The year the first Holden Commodore rolled off an Australian production line

2.4 million: Approximately how many Commodores were made locally, from 1978 to 2017

2020: The end of the line for the Commodore nameplate in Australia

42: The number of years the Commodore has been sold in Australia (longer than the Kingswood)

Holden dealers also are concerned that Isuzu – which sell just two vehicles, an SUV and a ute – almost outsold the entire Holden line-up last month.

“Holden needs new models now, not in a few years’ time,” said another Holden dealer, who also sells other Top 10 brands.

Some of Holden’s multi-franchise dealers are shuffling their showrooms around to put rival brands where Holdens once stood, as they are not selling enough cars to cover their overheads.

Anyone who bought a new Holden Commodore need not worry about future parts and service support, however.

The company says it will continue to maintain parts and service back-up for at least a decade to come.

The news of the Commodore’s demise marks the end of a dismal year for Holden.

Former Toyota Australia boss Dave Buttner announced last week he was stepping down after just 16 months of running Holden and trying to turn it around.

Last month, Holden posted its lowest sales since 1948. It was the sixth record low month this year.

A statement issued by Holden interim boss Kristian Aquilina said: “The decision to retire the Commodore nameplate has not been taken lightly by those who understand and acknowledge its proud heritage” and that the vehicle had once been “the cornerstone of Australian … roads for decades”.

However, he conceded, “with more choice than ever before, customers are displaying a strong preference for the high driving position, functionality and versatility of SUVs and utes”.

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