Commodore: the deathfall

HOW CHANGING BUYER BEHAVIOUR SAW HOLDEN’S ONE-TIME HERO GO FROM SLIDE TO SPIRAL

ANDY ENRIGHT

THE HOLDEN Commodore is dead. While it will still be on sale until next year, from the moment Holden announced it was ‘retiring’ the nameplate, it became the vehicular equivalent of a dead man walking. Sales of the ZB version have fallen off a cliff, the 309 registrations Holden managed in November 2019 representing less than half the sales of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (696).

It was apparent even before the ‘billion dollar baby’ VE launched that Holden could be in a spot. Sales of big sedans were down 20 percent yearon-year leading to the VE’s unveiling. Motoring commentator Will Hagon appeared on ABC’s PM program in July 2006 with a prescient note: “If this [the VE] completely failed, not only Holden - but Ford, Toyota, and the supply industry in Australia - would probably say, ‘Oh, that was bad luck. It’s all over.’”

Between its introduction in 2006 and its replacement in 2013, the VE’s sales had more than halved. By any measure, that represents a failed project, but the VE was a quality project battling against something far bigger.

As our graph shows, buyers were transiting out of large sedans to SUVs and, most notably, into dual-cab utes. In 2000, Hilux sales were 26 percent of the Commodore’s. By 2019, that position has reversed. The Commodore sells a minuscule 12 percent of the Hilux’s total.

In case you were looking for another factor, construction jobs in Australia have grown by 66 percent between 2000 and 2019 while Hilux sales have risen in the same period by 132 percent.

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