(Australian Associated Press)
HOLDEN’S PROUD HISTORY IN AUSTRALIA
1856 – Holden begins as a South Australian saddlery business.
1917 – Holden manufactures vehicle bodies.
1931 – General Motors buys Holden Motor Body Builders.
1948 – The FX, the first Australian-designed car, is released.
1951 – Holden’s first ute goes on sale.
1958 – South Australian manufacturing plant opens at Elizabeth, though it does not assemble its first full car until 1965.
1968 – Kingswood and Monaro enter the market.
1969 – Holden makes its first V8 engine.
1971 – Holden launches the HQ model. Considered by some to be the best Holden ever.
1978 – Commodore replaces Kingswood.
1990 – Holden’s last Australian boss, John Bagshaw, quits.
2003 – Holden opens $400 million V6 engine plant at Port Melbourne, exports to Korea, China and Mexico begin. Toyota takes Holden’s position as top-selling car brand.
2009 – Parent company, General Motors, files for bankruptcy in the US but survives.
2013 – Prime minister Tony Abbott says the government will reduce support for automotive manufacturers despite appeals for help.
2013 – Holden decides to end manufacturing in Australia by 2017. The Holden Commodore is to become a fully-imported car.
2017 – The company rolls its last car off the assembly line on October 20, ending more than 50 years of car production on the Elizabeth site.
2019 – GM announces it will discontinue its Commodore and Astra models in 2020.
2020 – General Motors announces the retirement of the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand.
For more than 70 years, Australians have had a love affair with Holden cars.
There’s hardly been a local household that hasn’t, at one time or another, had one of the company’s vehicles parked in its driveway.
As a nation, we’ve cheered them on at Bathurst as part of the enduring and often intense motorsport rivalry with Ford.
And we’ve sung along to their jingles, the catchy “football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars” from the 1970s almost rising to the status of Australia’s unofficial national anthem.
But the love affair is no more with US parent company General Motors deciding to dump the brand and focus its efforts in other countries, unwilling to invest the necessary cash to ensure its ongoing viability.
It’s hard to imagine the closure of another company that will evoke the same emotions that the demise of Holden will produce across the nation.
Not the least of those are the remaining 800 staff who still work for the company across both Australia and New Zealand.
Clearly upset as he announced the decision to “retire” the brand, interim Chairman and Managing Director Kristian Aquilina said it was a decision made with a “heavy heart”.
“We’re heartbroken,” Mr Aquilina said.
“There’s been lots of tears and lots of hugs. We’re a Holden family and we’re there for each other.
“It is an emotional time. It’s been difficult.”
He reflected on that relationship Australians had with Holden.
“On behalf of Holden and General Motors it has been an absolute privilege for Holden to be there with so many of you for those important experiences in life, family holidays, getting tradies to work, getting your L plates and getting your P plates. Bringing home a newborn. First jobs, last jobs.”
Mr Aquilina talked about providing all the support possible for the 600 staff to lose their jobs, with most of those to be gone by the end of June.
Holden has a plan for “each and every person”, he said.
But what about the rest of us?
What do we do now with our first memories of sitting behind the wheel of our very own Holden?
How do we explain the passions evoked by a classic Holden Monaro or the iconic ute.
And who will we cheer for when the V8s next hit the racetrack?
Among all the car brands to come and go in Australia, Holden was the only one that was essentially ours alone.
For sure, some won’t understand what all the fuss is about.
But for diehard Holden fans, February 17, 2020 will stand out as a day Australia lost part of its soul.