Car News

Insignia-based all-new Commodore gone in 2021… what then for Holden?

Opel, no longer a part of the GM network, has announced it will switch to Peugeot platforms ASAP, meaning the all-new Commodore will be replaced again from 2021.

OPEL, WHICH DESIGNED and builds the Astra and Commodore for Holden, has been sketching out its future this week. It was sold by GM in March, and now wants to run away from the GM legacy as fast as it can.

So, following the closure of Holden’s local manufacturing, it looks like more upheaval is on its way in Australia. Let’s back up and summarise the two big events leading to all this shenanigans.

The first is well-known: GM closed holden’s local plant because it lost money, deciding instead to bring in and rebadge a motley collection of cars from its offshoots in South Korea and Europe, as well as the US.

The second reason then struck. GM decided earlier this year to sell off that European division, again because it couldn’t be relied on to make money. In fact, it has been a bad loser.

Just one day before the Insignia/Commodore was first shown to the public, France’s Peugeot-Citroen group purchased the Vauxhall and Opel brands, factories and centres of design and vehicle development. Vauxhall and Opel, by the way, once built separate ranges of cars from each other but are now identical bar the badge. Vauxhall sells in RHD Britain and Opel across the rest of Europe.

This week the bosses at the former GM European division have set out a plan to turn the ship around. It hinges on integrating deeply within Peugeot as quickly as possible, and cutting its GM ties. The mainstays of the GM-based cars will be killed off by 2021 and replaced by cars based on Peugeot platforms.

This should improve the bottom line by reducing four outgoings: development cost, factory tooling investment, purchasing prices and licensing fees to Detroit.

So here’s the thing. The new Holden Commodore is a version of the European front-drive Opel Insignia, and is built in Germany. Before it’s even gone on sale, GM globally walked away from it. That puts Holden in a weak position.

What follows is no surprise. Opel said this week it isn’t really interested in building the new Insignia for long. We hear the car will die in about 2021. It’ll be replaced by a saloon of similar size, but built on Peugeot’s platform and using Peugeot’s engines. It’ll be a bigger version of the platform under the Peugeot 308 – a car we really rate.

So then, the new Commodore. On sale for less than four years. Orphan or collector’s item? We’d say the former.

Holden will likely replace it with a version of Detroit’s Chevrolet Malibu. Meanwhile the Astra will doubtless be swapped out for a hatch version of the current Oz Astra saloon, which is known as the Chevy Cruze in America.

This does not bode well. Check our tests of the Holden Astra saloon (a rebadged Chevy Cruze) and the Holden Astra hatch (a rebadged Opel Astra). The hatch is better-driving than the saloon, and better finished inside, and has more safety kit. It feels more expensive. More premium.

By the same token, the new Commodore might have attracted some criticism for being FWD. But it’s actually a refined well-made car with loads of tech and safety features. The Malibu has been criticised (even by the soft American press) as dull to drive and lacking safety kit. The new Commodore has an AWD and V6 option. The Malibu stops at four cylinders and FWD. It doesn’t even have HID headlamps, never mind the LED adaptive jobs you can get on the Insignia/Commodore. Nor head-up display or TFT instruments. You get the picture.

So it looks like Holden will lose the opportunity to sell Euro-developed cars, and rely instead on cheaper-feeling Korean and American ones.

Meanwhile, what of the future here for the new European combine? Well, Peugeot and Citroen have a distribution network here, so it wouldn’t be that hard to re-launch the next generation Opel-Vauxhalls. They’d share lots of parts with the French-branded cars, which would make repair simpler. It’s like the Skoda-Volkswagen-Audi setup.

This week’s announcement said Opel would enter 20 new markets by 2022. Because Vauxhall has a deeper history than Opel in Oz, that might well be the brand they choose to use here. The Holden plant built Vauxhalls here until the late 1960s. The Opel badge could be too tainted by the disaster of its 2012-2013 foray into this country.


  • Vins

    Will Buick Regal in the US affected? If not, won’t Holden just switch from Opel to Buick, provided they build RHD?

    • Hi Vins, as the Buick is the same vehicle, yes, it’s also likely to be affected. – Isaac

  • Monty

    Ah GM, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I expect they will follow Ford into the role of irrelevant and boring vehicles that almost everyone else does better. I was a Ford man for 30 years. Not any more. If we get the Chevy Bolt at a decent price I will gladly eat my words!

  • Azmodan

    So sad, b ut what did GM expect offloading Opel to PSA group. Can’t think of many worse companies to sell to. Get ready for ugly and ergonomically challenged French cars powered by the engine de jour, the 1.6l turbo.

  • Ben Tate

    For Holden enthusiasts, it doesn’t look promising to me. A Commodore based on a FWD Insignia? Yuk! And that disappears in 2021 to be replaced by a 4 cyl FWD?? Too late to reopen Elizabeth?

    It’s my guess that those who don’t mind FWD have shifted allegiance to Toyota Mazda Kia and Hyundai some time ago.
    It’s my guess that the RWD V8 enthusiasts
    will find some other “muscle car” to focus on. Is there a target audience for the ZB and beyond?

    Holden could suck up to the V8 RWD brigade by fasttracking the V8 Camaro to Oz at a price very similar to the Mustang.
    If GM did a Panamera version of the Camaro to make it a 4 door sedan I wonder if they could sell it as a Commode?

    Something a bit smaller? Why not just rebadge a Hyundai or Kia – they seem to be selling well.

  • Gary Quinlan

    Time to let the Holden nameplate die. GM hasn’t given a stuff for a decade, probably since it became Government Motors for awhile. The quality of assembly and dynamics of everything from GM Korea or GM America is woeful (remember the Camaro will probably be stuffed now that Holden engineers no longer will be developing new platforms).

    Chevrolet left Europe with egg on its face and the only places outside of the USA that GM seems to have traction is Canada, China and parts of South America, hardly connoisseurs of good cars! Ford is little better and along with FCA, the American companies have done more to earn the opprobrium of the ACCC and thinking consumers than their European or Asian counterparts.

  • Tarquin Farquhar the 3rd

    Holden is finished

  • Doug Mullett

    A tragedy of errors.

  • OzMan

    OzMan, ….. The rape and sodomy of an icon. The Holden Commodore. Kicked in the guts by GM, Thrown out by Opel and now the French have decided to burn the Commodore in Hell. GM need to pull their heads in as they have bastardised the build of the so called new ZB Commodore. GM have well and truly shot themselves in the foot over the Commodore. Nobody wants it. GM took so long to show their hand on killing manufacturing in this country now they are doing the same thing to the Commodore. The Commodore should have been allowed to die with dignity on closure of the plant in SA. They ummed and arrhed for so long that Ford made GM look like a bunch of sissy school kids too afraid to step into a rain puddle. The lack of any forward planning over such a long time shows the inability to make the right decision at an early stage. Too many fingers in the pot. GM has shown that they are just a bunch of cowboys rambling from one idea to another and forgetting what they were supposed to do. GM, if you had a brain, you would import all panels etc from USA and have the plant in SA assemble Yankee cars in SA. There is no need to do right hand conversion of anything in Oz. Just send all the parts to Oz and allow the intelligent people put all together with RH done part way along the assembly line. Oz has the tooling and all the facilities to turn things around. There is no need to build a car in Yankee land and then export it to OZ. Just send all the parts and you Yanks won’t have to go through the costly need to tool up for both left and right hook assembly. Oz don’t need to design the car, just assemble and hit the RH hook problem as the machine travels along the line. GM wins and Oz wins. Maybe it is just too easy for GM to see the light my friends. Chapter 12, verse 29a: though shalt not commit stupidity. GM, your inability to race in and get things done has shown that you are not worthy of the general public’s viewing as you just seem to continue falling over your feet and procrastinating for too long a time. The people in OZ are turning to Ford and others in their thousands because you have shown yourselves as incapable of making a decision in a timely manner. How many times can you shoot yourself in the foot. You have left Oz floundering because of the complete snail pace by the think tank and bean counters. If you show yourselves to be the type of people who are too frightened to make a decision in a timely fashion, people will run away from you and find someone who does not procrastinate. GM, you have taken too long to be taken seriously. People have lost confidence in you. When Ford’s Mustang arrived in quick order, you were left high and dry. Keep doing the umm and ahh etc and you will lose all confidence from Oz. The total dithering and lack of real decision making within GM is turning Oz away from GM. If you were serious with being apart of the Oz landscape for cars, then you should have sent the hero car in the form of the Camaro at the same time as the Mustang hit the road in Oz. But no, there have been to many meetings and not enough action. You have shown yourselves as not willing to be a part of the Oz landscape because of inactivity and secrecy. I think you have used a machine gun to shoot yourselves in the foot. You still fail to come up with a plan that includes telling the Oz public that you care enough to keep them in the loop. Obviously our crap stinks, yours doesn’t !!!!!!! You have thrown the Commodore from pillar to post and only succeeded in doing nothing for a long time. We are fed up with your stories, we just want action. It is not a Holden problem as Holden have no say, they are the puppets of GM. Holden does what GM tells them.

  • Markcour

    It now seems likely Holden will be sold during the (short) life of the new Commodore. Probably Peugeot-Citroen will be the buyer. Peugeot-Citroen can then re-badge it’s Vauxhalls as Holdens. That makes a lot of sense. GM isn’t interested in RHD markets.

  • OzMan

    OzMan cometh … Holden is dead. Long live Holden. Australians need to remember that Holden are really GM. Holden has no say whilst owned by GM. GM pull the strings. So it could be said that Holden as a marque is dead. GM has throttled Holden and the Commodore. Holden are embarrassed as GM has left Holden high and dry with nothing to sell and, meanwhile, GM keeps the secrecy veil up ensuring that Holden products of any kind are doomed due to the inability for GM to come up with a viable plan. All GM have done is shown how it is great at being a recalcitrant and non committal. But that’s only my opinion. GM appears to not show any care towards the Oz motoring public, But that is my self indulgent opinion. I am but a mere Ozzie. I don’t count. In the big scheme of things, Australia as a Holden dominion that once held sway for decades over any other marque, is slowly being ground into the earth from which we all sprung. Except for GM as they appear to be laying low with the hope that it will all blow over and that GM might then bow their combined heads and slink away.If you say nothing and do nothing, then there is nothing left. Hey GM, you are slowly being seen as a non caring back slider. The Holden public have been duped. GM has pulled the best exit anyone could possibly devise. Dump our needs to a polish built German owned factory called Opel and then sell Opel to a country most people don’t like. Is there any proof that we are getting a replacement for the Commodore? It all seems rather back door stuff. Firstly there is a Commodore, then, no there isn’t because it is no longer a GM product as it was sold from under our feet. Then woe of woes, the same company to build the PHANTOM COMMODORE, are also going to dump the Commodore in favour of there own plans. So when is a Commodore not a Commodore? I don’t know. But it is a Commodore we don’t have. Probably not a goer, hey? Just a lot of smoke & fire. The Phantom Commodore has been kicked from pillar to post. I can hear them all now … “I don’t want it, no I don’t want it either, well I don’t want it. So, GM, you need to stop all the procrastination, pull your proverbial finger out and show Oz that you DEFINITELY have a plan that you will adhere to and that the sneaky hiding game has been replaced with action entirely of US sourced vehicles. Oz don’t want Euro cars. They only want US cars. How long will it take for all the right people to do the right thing and show Oz Public that they haven’t been forgotten. The more GM procrastinates, the more Oz Public will walk over to the blue oval. GM, you are shooting yourself in the foot at point blank range. The longer you procrastinate, the sooner the walk out will happen. It is a trickle now, but the longer we wait, the faster the exodus. It could be too late. But this is all my opinion. I’m just a lowly member of Oz Public who are fast realising that we appear to have been duped and sold a pup !!!!!!!!!!! Left out in the rain to be battered about the ear until we come to our senses. Duped you say? Procrastinate is something GM surely does not want. Do you guys in Yankee land ever ask your customers what they want? Or do you know all the answers. Hey Mary Barra?

  • OzMan

    OzMan cometh…. If the Yanks don’t want to do the right hook thing to US cars. They don’t have to. OZ has all the equipment for that purpose. All set up. All GM need to do is import all the parts that make up the wanted import car and let Ozzies put it all together with right hook happening along the line. No need for making parts. Import the bloody lot and put them together on Oz soil. Has to be the greatest choice. I’m sure all Oz Public will not mind a Yankee car assembled in Oz from all the imported parts. All the hard work done and Ozzies assemble it, in Oz. There you go Mary Barra. Should be a damn excellent choice where both US and Oz have a win win situation. Turn Oz into an assembly unit. Keeps all the relevant equipment going, employs people, should be a great tax dodge. Onya GM, if you can’t do it for Oz, do it for yourself. Win Win Win

  • Russell Booth

    Maybe Holden can come back to Australia because I don’t know who says Australia couldn’t make a good Holden & make a profit ,then I’ll consider buying an Australian built Commodore because I’ll go to Nissan or Infiniti to look for a car because at least Nissan supports their local manufacturing industry in Japan as well as the Australian one.

    I have to find out who in General Motors wondered why I didn’t get onto that sort of person who I drunk half a bottle of Vodka over & spewed all of my guts out over in 1995.

    I mean,such a person wasn’t going to increase Holdens sales & keep them in Australia so what sort of General motors or Holden person can’t understand why a Holden such as myself can never get onto sort of person that isn’t worth knowing & that I had to seek psychiatric help over ?

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.