It’s All Over, Red Rover. Sorry, Red Commodore

Today marks the end of an era. The moment finally arrived as the very last car to be manufactured in Australia will roll off the production line. This is not some ordinary factory closure for the legion of fans that plan to park outside the gates of the Adelaide factory. This is the end of a glorious era of overpowered Aussie-style muscle cars, designed by Australians to meet the rugged and extreme conditions of the Australian continent. There is a true emotional connection by many Aussies for the Holden Commodore, and there will be many tears shed over this news.

The last little red Holden rolling off the Elizabeth factory’s production line.

Perhaps more importantly for patriotic Aussies, this will be the last car manufactured in the country as the lights are turned off at the Elizabeth Town factory. Aussies are so fiercely patriotic and the demise of truly Australian cars will not sit well with many of them. But in truth—and although the advertisers would have the average Aussie believe that the Fords and Holdens were born and bred in Australia—they had in fact been American-owned since the 60s, Holden being a General Motors brand, of course.

Australia is a country where breaking big rocks into smaller rocks and selling them as a commodity to China is something they can do well, but building a car that could compete on a global market was obviously a bit above their skillset. The auto-making industry in Australia had been subsidised to the tune of AUD$30 billion between 1997 and 2012, with AUD$1.8 billion of that going to Holden, to try to help them compete against cheaper Asian offerings, but still they could not export the truly Aussie car. The world just didn’t want it at the price they offered it.

The government had been asked for AUD$150 million a year to keep the factory going and offset the cost of production in Australia, where the wage bills and production costs had mushroomed due to the mining boom—you know, the breaking rocks bit. But this price was seen as too high and the party came to an end.

Toyota also closed its production line this month, and of course Ford was first out the gate in closing in October last year. Since 2014, it is estimated that a total of 200,000 Aussies will join the unemployment lines, most of whom will be from the component industry. This will not be the end of the Commodore, as GM will still make them. They will however be a rebadged Opel Insignia, with a larger Aussie-sized V6 made in Germany.

With that sort of pedigree, it does make you wonder why they insisted on keeping the Commodore name alive. Diehard Holden fans will know it is not one, and only time will tell whether Holden or even GM will remain a force to be reckoned with in Australia, as they enter a brave new world of importing ALL of their cars. Aussies are a proud bunch but how did they get so emotionally patriotic about something that wasn’t ever really Australian, and much of the time wasn’t a good drive either.

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