Recently there came news that shocked a big proportion of Australia’s motor vehicle owners. The announcement concerned shelving by General Motors of the Holden brand, a sell-off of vehicles currently in stock at Holden dealerships and an end to imports of cars and commercial vehicles carrying the famous ‘Lion’ emblem.
This came as a huge shock not only to people who currently own Holdens but the millions of others who have owned these cars or grew up in families where the only car was a Holden.
General Motors is of course no newcomer to the process of taking the axe to revered automotive brands. In 2010 Pontiac disappeared from the North American market and in 2004, after 122 years of loyal service, GM sent the name of Oldsmobile careering into history.
Losing a beloved vehicle brand can be more than a psychological blow. With the name gone, dealerships fold and spare parts become more difficult to find since other brand outlets are not obliged to stock them. Used-car values can also take a hit; pushed lower as dealers discount and liquidate new stock.
At the moment, the money being sought for some older Holden models is soaring. Also, if you can find an Australian-built Commodore still sitting unregistered in a dealer showroom or holding yard, the price could be significantly higher than when that car was originally built.
Ford enthusiasts briefly experienced the same situation after the brand shut down local manufacturing and ended Falcon production. The final V8-engined and six-cylinder turbo cars, often following hard lives in Police traffic patrol fleets, were sometimes selling at auction for more than their original purchase prices.
Demand has settled; however it is still possible to find FG Turbo Falcons with super-low kilometres and in showroom condition that hold 80 percent of their list prices.
The trend towards brand ‘rationalisation’ still has a way to go and long-serving badges will certainly not be immune from oblivion. The sale of General Motors’ Vauxhall and Opel brands to French-owned Peugeot-Citroen will see the British and German marques slated for retirement, or perhaps replaced by an all-new name that can be sold world-wide.
The US market doesn’t have a lot of locally owned brands left; however it is likely that either Buick or Cadillac (both owned by General Motors) will disappear or become the company’s flagship in the booming Chinese new car market.
Volkswagen is another massive conglomerate that will likely be culled to just one or two emblems worldwide, even though manufacturing may still be spread across Europe, Asia and South America.
Among the ‘tiddlers’ that are striving to remain independent, Aston-Martin is in trouble, as is Lotus. Bristol Cars which survived since the 1940s by making high-quality, low-volume transport for mega-rich buyers recently ran out of money and luck and will disappear if a saviour isn’t found.
Could some older brands make their way back from retirement? Given recent success rates that seems unlikely. Bugatti has tottered along since the 1990s generating loads of media coverage but not much money for its Volkswagen Group owners. Mercedes-Benz tried a few years back to revitalise the 1930s Maybach name but got nowhere, while in Japan Nissan’s Infiniti looks set for its second demise in the space of 15 years.
At Enthusiast Insurance we maintain a massive database of current and bygone brands. Clicking your way into www.enthusiast.com.au and completing a few quick questions about you and your vehicle will confirm qualification for Enthusiast’s ‘Drive Less….Spend Less’ insurance cover. This unique product based largely on the distance a vehicle travels annually has for some years been saving money for owners who principally do short trips or drive for recreation.