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Holden is an Australian automotive manufacturer with ties to General Motors. It is an icon in the region.

History of the Firm

James Alexander Holden emigrated to South Australia from England in 1852 and in 1856 established J.A Holden & Co, a saddlery business in Adelaide. The firm evolved through various partnerships and in 1908, as Holden and Frost, moved into the business of minor repairs to car upholstery and manufacturing hoods and side curtains. In 1913 the firm began to produce complete motorcycle sidecar bodies. From 1917, wartime trade restrictions led to Holden & Frost commencing large scale production of car bodies. H.J Holden incorporated a new company in 1919, Holden's Motor Body Builders Ltd (HMBB). Holden's Motor Body Builders Ltd made bodies to suit a number of chassis imported from different manufacturers, but particularly Chevrolet. In 1931 General Motors purchased the business and formed General Motors–Holden's Ltd. In 1998, it was renamed Holden Ltd and in May 2005, it became known as GM Holden Ltd.

Australia's Own Car

Launch of the first Holden in November 1948 by Prime minister Ben ChifleyAfter the end of World War II, the Australian government took steps to encourage an Australian automotive industry, and persuaded General Motors to build "Australia's own car". The Holden 48/215, introduced in 1948, was a medium-sized vehicle fitted with a 132 in³ (2.15 L) engine, and based on a design proposed for the 1949 Chevrolet, that had been rejected as being too small for that purpose. Although not particularly mechanically or stylistically sophisticated, it was simple, rugged, more powerful than most competitors, and offered reasonable performance and fuel economy in an affordable package. Better suited to Australian conditions than its competitors, and assisted by tariff barriers, it rapidly became Australia's best-selling car.

The millionth Holden (an EJ) comes off the line at Fishermen's Bend.Despite the arrival of competitors in the 1960s, Holden's locally-produced large six and eight-cylinder cars have remained Australia's top-selling vehicle for most of that time. The Kingswood sedan, wagon and ute (utility or pickup truck) was exported and assembled abroad, including New Zealand along with South Africa (badged as the Chevrolet Kommando), Indonesia and Trinidad and Tobago. Holden has offered a reasonably full range of other vehicles, some locally produced but others sourced from various other parts of the General Motors empire, such as Chevrolet, Opel, Isuzu and Suzuki.

Another notable Holden offering was the mid-size Torana, introduced in the mid-1960s, and initially based on the British Vauxhall Viva. The name 'Torana' was an Aboriginal word meaning 'to fly'. The Torana LH/LX series, which consisted of 3 door hatchback and 4 door booted sedan variants (between 1974 and 1978) was unusual in that it was offered with a choice of four (1.9 L OHC), six (2.8 L, 3.3 L OHV) or eight cylinder (4.2 L, 5.0 L OHV) engines. The four, later renamed Sunbird, was very sluggish, the eight-cylinder version alarmingly fast: the six was the most popular option. The Torana was replaced by the 1982 Camira, which was GM's medium-sized "J-Car". Bodywork for the Camira wagon was exported to the UK for Vauxhall's Cavalier.

Corporate Timeline


Begins as J.A Holden & Co, saddlery business, Adelaide, South Australia


Produces complete motorcycle sidecar bodies


Produces its first complete custom-made car body


Commences large-scale production of car bodies


Holden & Frost sets up Holden's Motor Body Builders (HMBB)


Opens Woodville, South Australia - most modern production line in Australia
Woodville sole local body supplier for GM vehicles


Produces first closed bodied type cars
Becomes biggest bodybuilding operation outside North America, Continental Europe


General Motors Australia (GMA) is formed


'Lion-and-stone' emblem first used


Merge of GMA and HMBB to General Motors-Holden's


Produces first coupe-utility


New headquarters, Fishermens Bend, Melbourne


First Australian company to mass-produce internal combustion engines including Gypsy Major aeroplane, Gray Marine, and a 4-cylinder radial torpedo


Responds to Australian Federal Government invitation to produce an Australian car


Launch of Australia's first locally manufactured car by Prime Minister Ben Chifley


May: Produces its 100,000th Holden, a 48-215(FX)


January: Produces its 250,000th Holden, an FJ


Produces first Holden station wagon, based on FE sedan
Produces its 1 millionth car body
Operations begin at Lang Lang Proving Ground


October: Produces its 500,000th Holden, an FC


Produces 1 millionth Holden, an EJ


Australian safety first. Fits seat belts on all models


Launches first small Holden, the Torana
Exports its 100,000th Holden


Introduces HK range including Australia's first sports coupe, HK Monaro
Introduces energy-absorbing steering column to Australia


Opens first Australian automotive safety design test centre at Lang Lang Proving Ground, Victoria
Exhibits first Australian-made V8 - the Holden Hurricane experimental car
Produces its 2 millionth Holden, an HT


Produces its 3 millionth Holden, an HJ


October: Launches its first Commodore, the VB


Sir Laurence Hartnett drives 4 millionth Holden, a VC Commodore, off the line


Builds its 200,000th engine, and exports its 250,000th by year's end


Holden produces its fifth millionth vehicle, a VN Commodore


VN Commodore retains title of Australia's most popular car


Australian safety first. Introduces anti-lock brakes (ABS)


Australian safety first. Introduces driver airbag system


Unveils new corporate identity under single banner of 'Holden'
VR Commodore tops passenger car market


Introduces new 3800 ECOTEC V6 engine


Launches all new VT Commodore - wins Wheels Car of the Year


Anniversary celebrations to commemorate 50 years since the launch of 'Australia's Own Car' - the 48-215


Holden launches the all-new WH Statesman and Caprice luxury models
Holden exports its 3 millionth Family II engine and commences export of WH models to the Middle East


The advanced ECOmmodore hybrid-electric concept car is unveiled
As Official Automotive Partner, Holden plays a major role in Sydney 2000 Olympics
The all-new VU Holden Ute is launched
Holden announces plans to establish a new V6 engine plant at Fishermans Bend (Vic)
  • Record production at Elizabeth (SA) and Fishermans Bend manufacturing plants
  • Holden Commodore is Australia's top-selling car for the fifth consecutive year


The all-new XC Barina and Zafira compact wagon are launched
The 6 millionth Holden is produced at Elizabeth
Holden is awarded the Windscreens O'Brien safety award for its side impact research program
Holden is rated fourth (among Australia's top 100 companies) in Fairfax Good Reputation Index
The Monaro sports coupe is launched at the Sydney Motor Show
The XC Barina is named Wheels magazine Car of the Year
Holden and Kidsafe announce partnership to conduct first-ever national child restraint safety inspection program
Holden wins total market leadership for 2001 and Commodore is Australia's top-selling car for the sixth consecutive year


Holden sets all-time sales record for an Australian carmaker, wins total market leadership for 2002
Commodore is Australia's top selling car for seventh consecutive year
Launch of new-design VY Commodore and Ute
All wheel drive production prototype, Cross8, unveiled at Melbourne Motor Show and crossover sports hatch SSX concept launched at Sydney Motor Show
Holden becomes strategic partner in General Motors Daewoo Auto & Technology Company, taking 42.1% stake in the global company
Construction of high feature V6 engine plant building completed at Fishermans Bend - start of production planned for October 2003
Monaro wins the Australian Design Award in the Industrial Design Category and special accolade from Design Institute of Australian in its Industrial Design Selection
Holden commences child restraint research and test program with Monash University Accident Research Centre and runs first computer brain validation test for world-leading study
Holden's first major export program to US announced - 18,000 units per year for Monaro coupes prepared as the Pontiac GTO, Middle East export program for coupes also confirmed
Launch of all wheel drive Cruze
Announcement of $2 billion capital expenditure program from 2002 to 2006 - program expected to boost 2003 production by 21%
All-new Combo compact van introduced
Holden rates fifth amongst Australia's Top 100 companies in Fairfax Reputation Index
Holden ranked No. 5 in Australia in the Reputation Quotient, a study of corporate reputations by Harris Interactive Australia
Holden named Australia's most trusted automotive manufacturer by Readers Digest
Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife/Jim Richards V8 Supercar wins Bathurst 1000


Plans announced to employ an extra 1000 people at Vehicle Manufacturing Operations in Elizabeth, SA, with commencement of a third shift
$200 million redevelopment of Holden's Fishermans Bend precinct announced
Launch of new generation Rodeo light commercial range in February
Holden continues emphasis on child safety, initiates free child seat inspection service
Launch of new generation ZC Vectra range
WK Caprice and Statesman introduced
Holden Innovation R&D centre opens
Turbocharged Astra SRi and Convertible introduced
Commodore SS Wagon introduced
Holden announces record 2002 revenues of almost $6 billion
Launch of 'reborn' Holden One Tonner cab chassis range in May
Third shift commences at Elizabeth Vehicle Operations in June
Launch of VY Series II Commodore, Berlina, Calais, Ute, One Tonner and Series III Monaro in August
Crewman four-door ute introduced
Adventra all wheel drive crossover wagon launched in September
October marks 50th anniversary of FJ Holden, 25th year of Commodore production

2006 Peter Brock dies.


Active Fuel Management (AFM) cylinder deactivation introduced in V8 Holdens (automatics only).


Model-Sharing under the Button Plan

Between the late 1980s and mid-1990s, the Australian government introduced a plan to restructure the local motor industry, which involved local manufacturers sharing models, known as the Button Plan, after the federal minister for trade and industry, John Button. Holden sold the Nissan Pulsar as a Holden Astra (not to be confused with the Opel-sourced model of the same name) and used the 3.0L turbocharged 6-cylinder engine from Nissan's Skyline designated BT1 in the VL Commodore (1986-1988)(which was specifically designed by Nissan for Holden). In 1988, it then entered a partnership with Toyota in Australia, to form a joint venture company called United Australian Automobile Industries (UAAI). In 1989, Holden began selling rebadged versions of Toyota's Corolla and Camry, as the Nova and Apollo, while Toyota sold the Commodore as the Toyota Lexcen, named after the late America's Cup yacht designer, Ben Lexcen. This badge engineering proved unpopular with buyers, even though rival Ford had been somewhat successful with its Laser and Telstar models, which were just thinly disguised versions of Mazda of Japan's (The Japanese branch owned by Toyo Kogyo and Ford, while Mazda of America is under Ford) 323 and 626.

The 1990s

In 1995, UAAI was dissolved, and Holden was able to source product offerings from GM rather than from other manufacturers in Australia. Between 1996 and 1997, Holden replaced the Toyota-based Nova and Apollo with the Astra and Vectra, imported from Opel in Europe. The Opel Corsa was sold in Australia as the Holden Barina, replacing another model of that name, originally introduced in 1986, based on the Suzuki Swift. The Vectra was briefly assembled locally for export to neighbouring countries, but this was dealt a severe blow by the Asian economic crisis in 1997. It has subsequently been imported from Europe.

The 2000s

No announcement about scrapping the old Holden Logo and motto arrangement.Although its Opel-sourced models have been relatively successful, Holden has now looked to the GM owned Daewoo in South Korea for replacements. Holden has already established close research and design links with Daewoo, with which it provides the large Statesman model. The 2006 model Holden Barina is based on the Daewoo Kalos, and the entry-level Astra Classic was replaced by the Holden Viva, based on the Daewoo Lacetti. However, the Astra badge is continued with the CD model Astra. Due to tariffs and exchange rates, various Vectra models are more expensive than the larger Commodore in Australia and New Zealand, and the European model is likely to be replaced by a version of the new Daewoo Tosca in 2006. In 2006 the latest Holden to hit the range is set to make its debut appearance in the family home in early September. With an all new body shape, the VE has received increased power upgrades, performance, handling and appearance.

New Zealand

The first export of Holdens to New Zealand began in 1954, and for many years they were assembled at the General Motors New Zealand plant in Petone outside Wellington, until it closed in 1990. While the Holden name was (and is) used on virtually all GM products in Australia, in New Zealand other GM products from Vauxhall, Bedford, Isuzu, Pontiac and Opel were sold as well.

However, for such a small market, it made little sense to have so many brands, so each was rationalized from the 1960s. Chevrolet and Pontiac had effectively disappeared from the market by the 1970s, though there were still Chevrolet trucks from the US and a top-end Holden Statesman with a Chevrolet V8 engine, known as the Chevrolet 350. Vauxhall's full line-up was pared back to the Chevette and Viva by 1977 as Holden's range expanded to include mid-sized cars (the Torana and Sunbird). Isuzu (selling the Gemini) and Vauxhall (with the last Chevette) disappeared on the launch of the Holden Gemini TE series in 1981, while Bedford met its demise with the assembly of the last CF vans in 1984.

As 1983 began, Holden began fielding something close to a full range: the Gemini as the entry-level car, the Camira as the mid-sized one, and the Commodore in the large sector. All ranges had sedan and wagon variants (the Gemini also had a van version), and each lineup included sporting and luxury versions.

However, the Australian Holden Camira (JB series) fared so badly due to quality problems in New Zealand that local GM bosses decided to replace it with a the GM J car based Isuzu Aska (or JJ) from Japan. This was known as the JJ Camira, and proved to be much better than its Australian-sourced predecessor. The Isuzu-based model survived until Holden introduced the ultimate Camira, the JE, which made it across the Tasman Sea in 1987.

As the 1980s continued and Holden's future became uncertain, General Motors New Zealand Ltd. pondered the reintroduction of other GM brands. In around 1985, there were strong rumours, and a GM report, that indicated that Holden would cease to exist in its current form, and that its models would be exclusively designed offshore. Certainly what was happening in Australia did not instil confidence: rebadged Suzukis, Nissans and Isuzus were occupying the bottom end of the range, while the Commodore was about to shift to a Japanese-designed three L engine.

Therefore, Opel made a small reintroduction with a tiny selection of highly priced models (Kadett GSE, Ascona GT, Senator, Monza). Research showed that Pontiac had a good reputation, so rather than follow the Australian route with a rebadged Toyota Corolla, GM New Zealand brought in the Opel Kadett based LeMans from Daewoo of South Korea, attempting to fill both the compact and mid-sized sectors until the arrival of the Opel Vectra. Despite the car's origins and place of manufacture, it was marketed in New Zealand as 'American'. Many New Zealanders never knew that "Pontiac Le Mans" was an older name for a much larger car in the United States.

In the late 1980s, General Motors New Zealand attempted to use many makes and have 'GM' as the main brand. Therefore, the mainstream range in 1989 consisted of:

Commercials bore the Isuzu name. This, however, created little brand loyalty and consumers did not accept 'GM' as a brand.

It was only in 1994, with Holden's future more secure, that General Motors New Zealand finally became Holden New Zealand. The Opel name was dropped, and the Vectra was rebadged as a Holden, even though it was then not available in Australia. The Astra was introduced the following year, identical Opel-badged models, imported second hand from Japan, already being sold locally.

Early models of the Holden Astra and Vectra in New Zealand differed from those sold in Australia, in that they had a distinctive grille with a 'V' containing the Holden badge, similar to that used by Vauxhall in the UK. Later on this was changed to bring the New Zealand model range in line with Australia.

Similarly, the Isuzu Trooper off-road vehicle was rebadged the Holden Jackaroo, as in Australia, although owing to the widespread availability of the identical Isuzu Bighorn as a used Japanese import, that name was used on brand new models imported by Holden New Zealand. For a very brief, and with hindsight anomalous, period during 1998-1999, the Holden Frontera was sold new in New Zealand as the Isuzu Wizard, though things have now been brought into line with Australia.

There are still differences between the Holden model ranges in Australia and New Zealand. It was only in August 2005 that the wagon version of the Holden Astra went on sale in Australia, while in New Zealand, the Astra wagon is to be dropped (replaced by the Daewoo-based Holden Viva wagon), like the Zafira in 2004. The Astra Turbo, and Tigra have also been released in Australia, but will not be sold in New Zealand.

In April 2005, the New Zealand Government accidentally banned the importation of Holdens after introducing its Anti-G.M. legislation. The legislation was changed shortly afterwards to remove the ambiguity.

Export markets

The Holden Commodore is as popular in New Zealand (where it has hit the number-one slot in the sales' charts from time to time) as it is in Australia, often being used as a police car. It is also sold in South Africa, Thailand, and parts of the Middle East badged as a Chevrolet Lumina, and in Brazil as the Chevrolet Omega. Holden's exports to the Middle East and Brazil were the first left hand drive cars built since the 1960s, when it sold cars in Hawaii. HSV's modified vehicles are also sold in the United Kingdom. A modified version of the Holden Monaro is sold in the United States as the Pontiac GTO. The Holden Monaro is sold under its model name through Vauxhall dealerships in the United Kingdom. Holden also exports its Statesman sedan to the Middle East as the Chevrolet Caprice, to South Koreaas the Daewoo Statesman, and China as the Buick Royaum. Fiji, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia have also been Holden export markets.

Sports vehicles

Between 1968 and 1974, GMH sold a two-door variant of their full-size Holden sedan as the Monaro, with great success. A revived Monaro, based on the previous model Commodore, has attracted wide attention since being shown as a concept car at Australian motor shows, and a large waiting list after it was put into production. The revived Monaro was released in the Australian market in October 2001. Starting with the 2004 model year, the Monaro has been exported to the United States, rebadged as the Pontiac GTO, and the Middle East, rebadged as the Chevrolet Lumina Coupe. It is sold in limited numbers in the UK as the Vauxhall Monaro. Production ceased in 2006.

Holden Special Vehicles (HSV), formed in 1987 in partnership with Tom Walkinshaw, is a company that manufactures extensively modified, high-performance Commodore variants (including the Monaro and the Statesman). Holdens have been a staple of domestic touring car racing since the 1960s, and the quasi-factory Holden Racing Team (HRT) has been dominant in V8 Supercar racing. To further reinforce their brand, HSV introduced their own 'HSV Dealer Team' into the V8 Supercar fold in 2005.

Production plants


  • Woodville - 1923-85
  • Birkenhead - 1926-65
  • Elizabeth - 1958>


  • Acacia Ridge - 1966-85


  • Dandenong - 1956-89
  • Fishermens Bend (Engines) - 1936>


  • Mossman Park - 1926-72


  • Marrickville - 1926-39
  • Pagewood - 1940-80

Holden Models


Barina| Caprice| Captiva| Colorado| Combo| Commodore| Cruze| Epica| Statesman| Ute

Concept: Efijy


Apollo| Astra| Belmont| Brougham| Calibra| Camira| Drover| Frontera| Gemini| Jackaroo| Kingswood| Monaro| Nova| Piazza|Premier| Sandman| Special| Standard| Sunbird| Toranza| Vectra| Viva| Zafira

See Also

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General Motors Company

Buick | Cadillac | Chevrolet | GMC | Holden | Hummer | Opel | Vauxhall | Daewoo

Current: Barina · Caprice · Captiva · Combo · Commodore · Colorado · Statesman · Ute · Epica · Cruze · Barina Spark · Volt

Commodore Variants: VS · VB · VC · VH · VK · VL · VN · VP · VR · VT · VX · VY · VZ · VE

Historic: Adventra . Apollo · Astra · Belmont · Brougham · Calibra · Camira · Crewman . Holden Cruze AWD · Drover · EH · FB · Frontera · FJ · FX · Gemini · Jackaroo · Kingswood · Monaro · Nova · One Tonner . Piazza · Premier · Rodeo · Sandman · Scurry · Shuttle · Special · Standard · Suburban · Sunbird · Tigra · Torana · Vectra · Zafira · Viva · Barina · Omega

Concept: ECOmmodore · EFIJY · Torana GTR-X Concept · Nations Cup Monaro Concept · Sandman Concept · SST Concept · SSX Concept · Torana TT36 Concept · UTEster Concept · Coupe 60 Concept · Hurricane Concept

Holden Special Vehicles · Statesman

James Alexander Holden Corporate website A division of General Motors

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Model nameplates

Avalanche XUV · Clubsport · Grange · GTS · Maloo · Senator · SV88 · VXR · W427 ·

Model series

VL · VN/VG/VQ · VP · VR/VS · VT · VT II · VX · VX II · Y Series · Y II Series · Z Series · E Series

Tom Walkinshaw Racing

Tom Walkinshaw Corporate website A brand of the Holden and TWR

External links

News & References

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