Friday 26th November 1948
The first Holden automobile was produced. Holden occupies a special place in Australia’s history as the manufacturer of the first all-Australian car. The Holden name, however, is older than the motor car itself and has been associated with transportation in Australia since the gold boom days of the early 1850s, when it first appeared above James Alexander Holden’s leather and saddlery business in Adelaide, South Australia. By 1885, the Holden & Frost company was repairing and building horse-drawn carriages and coaches. In 1914, it produced its first custom-made car body and by 1924, renamed Holden’s Motor Body Builders, it operated one of the world’s most advanced production lines and was the exclusive body supplier to General Motors in Australia.
Australia’s first large-scale automotive manufacturing facility was formed in 1931 when the companies merged to become General Motors-Holden’s Limited. Many other Australian companies owe their development to the pioneering spirit displayed by GM-H in those formative years.
During World War II, GM-H was a major industrial force in Australia’s defence effort. Between 1939 and 1945, it produced more than 30,000 vehicle bodies for the Australian and United States forces and manufactured a wide range of equipment, including field guns, aircraft, aero and marine engines.In 1948, GM-H completed the challenge of building the nation’s first successfully mass-produced car. Australians took the six cylinder Holden 48-215, later nicknamed the FX, immediately to their hearts, and with the release of the evolutionary FJ model in 1953, the love affair deepened.
Holden rode high on the sales charts though the 50s, 60s and 70s, producing a succession of landmark models. It exported its 250,000th vehicle in 1972 and in 1977 celebrated 25 straight years of overall market leadership.
The launch of the VB Commodore in 1978 signalled a major change of direction. Plans for a new Family II 4-cylinder engine plant were announced the same year, and in 1982 engine exports reached 250,000 units.
In 1985, General Motors-Holdens Limited reorganised into two GM subsidiary companies – Holden’s Motor Company and Holden’s Engine Company (HEC). 1987 saw the creation of United Australian Automotive Industries, controlling company for a Holden-Toyota joint venture, the GM arm of which was called General Motors’ Holdens Automotive (GMHA).
The millionth Family II engine was exported in 1988 and Holden continued to demonstrate leadership with the introduction of an exciting range of models incorporating significant design, engineering and safety innovations.
The joint venture was dissolved in 1995 and HEC was re-integrated into Holden’s manufacturing operations. Holden was established as the GM Product Engineering Centre for the Asia Pacific region in 1996. GMHA was renamed Holden Ltd in 1998 and the company resumed volume vehicle exports in the same year.
Holden closed the millennium by winning total market leadership for the first time in 18 years.
A $532 million investment in works for the South Australian vehicle assembly operation began in 2000 and in 2002 Holden set an all-time sales record for an Australian carmaker. The opening in 2003 of a $400 million Global V6 engine plant in Port Melbourne represented GM’s largest single investment in Australia in more than 20 years.
In 2005, Holden Ltd integrated into a single business entity with Saab Automobile Australia and opened new corporate headquarters at 191 Salmon Street Port Melbourne. The company name changed to GM Holden Ltd and the Holden’s role in designing and engineering GM cars outside the Australian market was significantly expanded. Vehicle exports of 60,518 set an all-time record.
In 2006, the launch of the VE Commodore and WM Statesman and Caprice represented an investment of $1.2 billion – part of a $6.1 billion commitment to General Motors’ Australian operations over the preceding 10 years. 2007 saw the establishment of GM Premium Brands, incorporating HUMMER and Saab, within GM Holden in Port Melbourne, with Cadillac will be joining them in 2008.
Today, GM Holden continues to build on its position as the country’s largest automotive manufacturer and employer and the highest private sector spender on research and development. It is an internationally competitive exporter of vehicles, engines and automotive expertise. As a member of the world’s largest car company, General Motors, GM Holden holds global responsibilities for rear-wheel-drive engineering development and vehicle design for future programs outside Australia.
Since 1948, GM Holden has notched up close to 8 million vehicle sales. In managing the country’s largest automotive export program, Holden has also sent more than 792,000 vehicles around the world in five decades and more than four million export engines in 26 years.
Major GM Holden operating facilities are located at Fishermans Bend (technical centre, administration and engine manufacturing plants), Dandenong (spare parts operation) and Lang Lang (automotive proving ground) in Victoria; as well as Elizabeth (vehicle manufacturing plant) in South Australia.