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General Motors scraps Holden division, exits right-hand drive markets

Just three years after the end of local production, Holden, the car division that put Australia on wheels, is dead.

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2016 Holden Commodore

Truly, it's an enormous loss for Australia.

Holden

Pontiac GTO, G8 and Chevrolet SS. If any of these vehicles even slightly tugged at your heartstrings, thank General Motors' Holden division. Today, General Motors made the somewhat foreseen decision to retire the roaring lion division.

The heavy decision comes just three years after GM pulled the plug on locally manufacturing vehicles in Australia, which saw the end of the beloved Commodore in familiar form. Holden, a 160-year-old automaker, is largely credited with creating the Australian auto industry.

Along the way, Holden created its own batch of icons including the Monaro, Sandman, the ute and, of course, the Commodore.

Parent automaker General Motors said in its own announcement the decision "accelerates the transformation of global markets." In regular speak, the automaker plans to exit all right-hand drive markets. With the decision to axe the Holden brand, it will cease doing business in New Zealand (another Holden market) and said it will pull Chevrolet from Thailand, which is also home to right-hand drive automobiles.

"I've often said that we will do the right thing, even when it's hard, and this is one of those times," said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra on the news. "We are restructuring our international operations, focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in the areas of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles."

Holden has been faced with severe challenges that predate the end of local manufacturing. With a splintered market and numerous competitors vying for a relatively small share of car buyers, Holden continued to notch dismal sales results. This is despite a push to capitalize on the SUV boom with rebadged versions of the GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Equinox as Holdens.

The locally built Commodore's replacement arrived as a rebadged Opel Insignia, which we know as the Buick Regal. We learned earlier this year that GM will not replace the vehicle, as a contract expires for PSA Group to supply the model after the French automaker purchased Opel from GM.

Holden will be but a footnote in history come the end of this year. GM will wind down financial services, close its Melbourne-based design center and hit the lights at its local Lang Lang proving grounds and engineering center. An after-sales network will honor all warranties and handle any future recall-related work. A small remnant of GM itself will remain with a "specialty vehicle" business, which will likely continue to import the Chevy Camaro and the mid-engine Corvette to Australia.

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