Holden has pulled the pin on the Commodore after more than 40 years, many of them as the best selling car in Australia.
Two years after ceasing local production and replacing it with an import, even the Commodore name will no longer survive past next year.
There was no warning, no press conference, nothing really given the gravity of the situation — although the warning signs had been obvious for many months.
So far this year, Holden has sold just 5400 Commodores, down 37 per cent on the same period in 2018.
Ten years ago that figure was 40,000 at this point in the year — 20 years ago, a whopping 85,000 cars.
In essence, Commodore has been given the boot because no one is buying it anymore.
It will make way for more SUVs and utilities, the kind of vehicles to which Aussies buyers aspire these days.
The sedan is dead — long live the SUV!
Many punters will say the Commodore actually died with the last, locally-built VF II model in 2017.
It’s replacement, the ZB Commodore, in truth a rebadged front-drive Opel Insignia, was not really a Commodore, they said.
Ironically, the first VB Commodore, released in 1978, was a rebadged and re-engineered Opel too — the Opel Rekord.
In contrast, when Ford wound up local production in 2016, it opted for a quick, clean kill of the Falcon — one of the oldest nameplates in the business.
Holden’s Interim Chairman and Managing Director, Kristian Aquilina, said the company had elected to retire the ZB Commodore in 2020,
It was a simple one-liner in a press release to announce that in future the company would be concentrating “exclusively” on SUVs and commercial vehicles.
The Astra has gone too, although nobody will probably miss it.
Aquilina said the focus of the portfolio was consistent with customer preferences, with the Acadia, Trailblazer, Equinox and Trax rounding out a comprehensive SUV portfolio.
The Colorado will tacke rivals in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) segment.
“Holden is taking this decisive action to ensure a sharp focus on the largest and most buoyant market segments,” he said.
“So far this year SUVs and Utes have increased to 76 percent of Holden sales, a trend we only see continuing.”
At its peak, the large car segment in Australia accounted for 217,882 sales in 1998.
This year it is projected to come in at about 8700 units.
“The SUV segment is approaching half a million units, and LCVs over 200,000 units. That’s where the action is and that’s where we are going to play,” he said.
The new Holden boss paid tribute to the Commodore nameplate and its place in the Australian automotive industry.
“The decision to retire the Commodore nameplate has not been taken lightly by those who understand and acknowledge its proud heritage,” he said.
“The large sedan was the cornerstone of Australian and New Zealand roads for decades.
“But now with more choice than ever before, customers are displaying a strong preference for the high driving position, functionality and versatility of SUVs and Utes.”
Sales and deliveries of Commodore and Astra will continue through 2020, albeit with diminishing model availability as part of an orderly runout.
Existing Commodore and Astra customers can be assured that Holden will continue to back warranty and roadside assistance commitments, with spare parts supply guaranteed well into the future.
On a brighter note, Holden plans to lodge production orders to GM’s Bowling Green factory for the highly anticipated mid-engine right-hand-drive Corvette next year.
But of course it won’t be cheap.
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