HoldenThis article is about the Australian car manufacturer. See Holden (places) for articles about towns named Holden.
Holden began as Holden Body Works, a coachbuilder that made bodies to suit a number of chassis imported from different manufacturers, but particularly Chevrolet. It was purchased by General Motors in 1931 and became General Motors Holden.
After 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 cubic inch (2.15 litre) engine. 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.
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. Holden has offered a reasonably full range of other vehicles, some locally produced but others imported from various parts of the General Motors empire.
Another notable Holden offering was the mid-size Torana, now out of production. The Torana hatchback was unusual in that this model was offered with a choice of a four, six or eight cylinder engine. The four was very sluggish, the eight-cylinder version alarmingly fast: the six was the most popular option.
Since 1978, Holden's largest (and currently only locally-produced) model has been the Commodore. The Commodore was originally based on a design by Opel but went through such extensive revisions (including several generations of engines, enlargements, suspension design changes, and complete body restyles) that this "grandfather's axe" of a car must now be regarded as a unique vehicle - indeed, it is the only rear-drive sedan still produced by GM.
The original Commodore, designed in the midst of the 1970s fuel crises, was significantly smaller than the HZ Holden it replaced or its arch-rival, the Ford Falcon. Initially it was a huge success, but as the fuel crisis faded Ford's larger package began to outsell it. At this time, Holden were also dealing with a number of severe and longstanding cost and build quality issues (as were other car companies in Australia and around the world). Holden lost sales leadership throughout the 1980s and did not regain top spot until the early 1990s. A succession of financial losses saw the company in trouble and in danger of closing local manufacture during this period.
The current model, one of the most successful cars in Holden's history, features either a 3.8 litre Buick-sourced V6 or a 5.7 litre V8 borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette. The V8 offers outstanding performance from a large car at a relatively modest price. The more modest six-cylinder (still probably the largest and most powerful top selling sedan anywhere in the world) is ubiquitous in government and private fleets. The Holden Commodore's major competitor in the Australian family car market is the Ford Falcon. In most years the Commodore consistently outsells the very similar Ford product, but the competition remains fierce.
Specialist companies such as Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) resell standard model Holdens like the Commodore, rebadged with sports stylings and suspension tweaks.
During the 1960s and 70s, GMH sold a two-door variant of their full-size Holden sedan as the Monaro, with great success. A revived Monaro, based on the current 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. Since 2002, the Monaro is exported to the USA, rebadged as Pontiac GTO.
For information on other vehicles see: List of automobiles.