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GM Holden Ltd is an automaker that operates in Australia, headquartered in Port Melbourne, Victoria. The company was founded in 1856 as a saddlery manufacturer. In 1908 it moved into the automotive field, before becoming a subsidiary of the U.S.-based General Motors (GM) automotive group in 1931. After becoming a subsidiary of GM, the company was named General Motors-Holden’s Ltd, becoming Holden Ltd in 1998, with the current name adopted in 2005.
Founded in 1856 by James Alexander Holden, in 1885 the establishment combined with the carriage builder Henry Frost to become Holden & Frost. In 1908 it moved into the automotive field, trimming motor vehicles and in 1914 they built their first one-off car body for an imported chassis, with larger contracts following. The firm became a subsidiary of the US-based General Motors (GM) automotive group in 1931, and resultantly retitled General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. In the late 1930s, the idea of producing a car made entirely in Australia was conceived, but plans were put on hold after the outbreak of World War II. During the war, General Motors-Holden’s was a major industrial force in Australia’s defence effort. Between 1939 and 1945, Holden’s produced more than 30,000 bodies for the Australian and US forces and manufactured a wide range of equipment, including field guns, aircraft, boats, including truck, aeroplane and marine engines and components.
Holden has taken charge of GM’s vehicle operations in Australasia, and on their behalf, held partial ownership of GM Daewoo in South Korea between 2002 and 2009. Holden has offered a broad range of locally produced vehicles, supplemented by imported GM models. Holden has offered badge engineered Chevrolet, Nissan, Suzuki, Toyota, and Vauxhall Motors models in sharing arrangements, with GM Korea, Opel and Isuzu-sourced models sold currently. Holden is also responsible for the distribution of the Opel brand in Australia.
All Australian-built Holden vehicles are manufactured at Elizabeth in South Australia, and engines are produced at the Fishermans Bend plant in Port Melbourne, Victoria. Historically, production or assembly plants were operated in all mainland states of Australia, with GM’s New Zealand subsidiary Holden New Zealand operating a plant until 1990. The consolidation of car production at Elizabeth was completed in 1988, but some assembly operations continued at Dandenong until 1996.
Although Holden’s involvement in exports has fluctuated since the 1950s, the declining sales of large cars in Australia has led the company to look to international markets to increase profitability.