Car News

2020 Holden Commodore range to be cut back by end of year

Holden is set to take an axe to its ZB Commodore range to better position it for the much lower sales levels it sets now that it is no longer made in Australia.

An update later this year will sport a slimmed down Commodore range to account for significantly less demand for the Holden large car that once dominated the sales charts. Whereas Commodores regularly used to top the sales charts with thousands of sales each month, as a car imported from Germany it’s far less popular, typically attracting 500-600 buyers a month.

Holden has been hinting since 2018 that the ZB Commodore range will be pared back from the 15 models of hatchbacks and wagons that cover six trim levels and three engine options (petrol and diesel four-cylinders as well as a V6).

Speaking at the launch of the updated Colorado ute, Holden sales director Peter Keley confirmed there would be fewer Commodore variants by the end of 2019.

“We’ll be looking at rationalising … we do have too many [models] for the volume that’s available to us,” he said, without detailing the exact variants likely to be dropped. He said most Commodores were sold to fleets – mimicking the trend with the locally made models built between 1978 and 2017– but that there was still healthy interest from private buyers.

“The market is certainly not growing … we’ve got some very good customers in the fleet area and at the end of the day we do have an underlying number of private individuals as well.”

Despite selling about one-tenth as many Commodores as it did in its heyday, the Commodore has a similarly bulging model lineup designed to cover fleet and private buyers across a broad spectrum.

By way of comparison, the rival Toyota Camry sells more than twice as many with a lineup of just nine models; on average, every Camry variant is selling at least four times more than a Commodore variant.

One obvious Commodore cull is the diesel engine, with sales of diesel passenger cars plummeting; in the first five months of this year just 3 percent of passenger vehicles sold in Australia have been fuelled by diesel, well down on highs of almost 6 percent six years ago.

“It’s selling in very low numbers,” Keley said of the diesel Commodore. “It’s one of the ones that we’re looking at [potentially chopping from the lineup].”

Straight away that would pull three models from the 15-strong range.

But there are also six trim levels covering everything from the basic LT and spicier RS and RS-V to the sporty VXR and luxury Calais and Calais V.

It’s almost certain at least one of those will go, possibly more, bringing the Commodore more into line with other mid-to-large sedans, many of which have adjusted to lower sales volumes in an era where SUVs are increasingly attracting family buyers.

Holden will also be hoping the government abolishes import tariffs, something that makes life incrementally tougher for the Commodore.

Whereas the Camry, Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty all come into the country under a free trade agreement, the Commodore gets slugged with a 5 percent import duty, the very tax put in place to protect cars such as the locally made Commodore decades ago.

Little wonder Holden has apparently been one of the car companies to lobby government to remove the tariff. However, the big question is what happens with the Commodore longer term. It is currently sourced from Opel in Europe, a company formerly part of the General Motors stables but sold to French giant PSA (Peugeot and Citroen) in 2017.

PSA has previously said it plans to retire all its existing vehicle architectures by 2024, putting an end date on the current Commodore – and one that would give it a shortened six-year model life. Keley wouldn’t be drawn on a possible replacement – or whether Holden would retire the nameplate – instead saying the focus was to continue selling the existing car in reasonable numbers.

“I think we need to see how the market really falls out [longer term],” he said. “Even with the Commodore volume that we have, at the end of the day we’re still 70 percent of the segment.”


Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.