After much speculation, Holden and Chevrolet have today announced a new export program, confirming that Commodore will return to North America in late 2013 as the new Chevrolet SS performance sedan.
The limited production derivative of the upcoming VF Commodore will arrive in North American showrooms late next year. It will be the first time in 17 years that Chevrolet will offer a rear-wheel-drive sedan for sale in the US.
The new SS will also become Chevrolet’s next NASCAR Sprint Cup racecar debuting next year in its race configuration at the world renowned Daytona 500.
To recognise the much-anticipated news, we’ve dug through the archives, (literally) blowing dust off our old film reels to piece together some of the highlights from Holden’s proud 62-year export history. You can see some of the great footage in the video below, but to set the scene, here’s an extract from the Holden Heritage book, published 2008.
Through the 1940s the plan by General Motors-Holden’s (GM-H) to develop and build ‘Australia’s Own Car’ had always included an export strategy.
The export of manufactured products was also integral to Federal Government policy. At the 1948 launch of the 48-215 (FX) Holden at Fishermans Bend, Victoria, Prime Minister Ben Chifley addressed assembled guests and an Australia-wide radio audience.
“I am not here on a political but on a national mission to thank General Motors-Holden’s Ltd on behalf of the Commonwealth. I already view with pride the possibilities of Holden, not only in its own country but also for export to countries beyond our borders, to other people’s in the Pacific and South East Asia”
GM-H Managing Director, Harold E. Bettle concurred:
“We believe that after increasing our volume to the point where it will satisfy domestic demand, we can export Holden cars and utilities to many other countries of the world, and thus establish Australia as an export source for automobiles, along with the United States, England, Canada and some European countries.”
Popularity of the 48-215 saw domestic order books filled for years, so export plans were put on hold while Holden expanded capacity and developed new models. By 1954 the time had come to revisit exports and the first shipment of FJ sedans headed to New Zealand in November of that year.
1954 New Zealand export program begins in November with export of FJ sedans
1956 Exports began to new markets in Thailand, Malaya and North Borneo
1958 The number of export markets rises to 24. 2346 units were exported and the cumulative total passed 10,000
1960 Left-hand drive production of the FB Holden begins and the initial LHD shipment of vehicles heads to Hawaii. For the first time, Australia earned US dollars from the sale of a locally made car. 10,672 Holden units exported
1962 Markets stood at 46 territories, embracing New Zealand, South, East and West Africa, Middle East, South-East Asia, Pacific, West Indies and South Eastern Europe
Total exports of Holden spare parts and accessories were valued at £11 million
1964 Ten years after Holden began its export operations, more than 62,000 units had been shipped overseas. GM-H reported the amount of foreign exchange resulting from Holden exports in 1964 alone was £7.675 million
1965 Exports increased by 41 per cent to 19,369, another record year
1966 GM-H began a new stage of its export program by sending torque converter automatic transmission components to Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Germany
1967 The 100,000th export Holden (Australian content more than 95 per cent) was produced at Holden’s Pagewood NSW plant
Exports of the Holden Torana began
1968 In the 20th year of Holden vehicle production, an all-new HK range which included Monaro and Brougham models increased export opportunities and 14.364 units were shipped abroad
1969 The first Australian-built V8 engines were shipped to assembly plants in South Africa, New Zealand and Malaysia
1970 Total export revenue rose to $42 million
Seven plants, in New Zealand, South Africa, Trinidad, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, now assembled Holden vehicles from Australian-manufactured components
1971 The HQ Holden range began production in July and immediately increased penetration in export markets. Good demand was reported for the new Statesman and other V8 models; six cylinder Torana sales increased in South East Asian markets
1973 The HQ became the ‘most exported’ Holden model range
Built-up and CKD shipments reached a record 41,181 units, representing 25 per cent of Holden’s total annual production
1974 Inflationary conditions and withdrawal of export incentives pointed to a decrease in export demand
Major export markets affected by oil crisis
1975- 77 Export sales dropped, remaining static at about 7500 units annually
1978 Launch of the all-new Commodore model range
Export sales of built-up and CKD units totalled 7171
1979 Strong demand for Commodore and Sunbird models in New Zealand
Vehicle export sales increased to 11,760 units
The Federal Government announced an export credits program from 1982
1980 Exports of WB model Statesman and Caprice commenced
1981 Commodore assembly commenced in Indonesia
A new era of engine exports begins with the commissioning of a $300 million engine plant at Port Melbourne. Family II four-cylinder engines produced there were shipped to the UK and Germany
1982 12,862 Holden units exported and 9000 sheet metal component sets exported to Daewoo, South Korea
1983 GM-H became Australia’s foremost exporter of manufactured goods with export sales of more than $189 million
1985 Engine exports totalled 193,072; vehicle exports 5799
1991 Holden’s Engine Company (HEC) marked ten years of Family II four-cylinder exports, which had earned an estimated $1.9 billion in export revenue
Export engine number 1.5 million was produced in June
Vehicle exports dropped to 2217 units
1995 HEC became Holden Engine Operations (HEO) and was Australia’s largest exporter of manufactured automotive components
1997 A record high of 248,136 four-cylinder engines exported to a global customer base that included South Korea, US, Japan, UK, Indonesia, Egypt, Germany, South Africa, Taiwan, Poland and Belgium
With its formal establishment as the GM Product Engineering Centre for the Asia Pacific Region, Holden began to export engineering services.
1998 Holden announced an intention to return to volume vehicle exports
Shipments of left-hand drive (LHD) Holden Commodores to the Middle East began in June and to Brazil in the third quarter
1999 First shipments of LHD Holden Statesman (Chevrolet Caprice) to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain
Vehicle exports surge to 22,965 units, an increase of 235 per cent on the previous year
2000 Chevrolet Lumina (Commodore) sedans and wagons and Chevrolet Caprice sedans (Statesman/Caprice) were top-selling GM models in the Middle East
Shipments of SS Commodores to South Africa, Namibia and Botswana commenced
2001 Combined exports earned $1.16 billion
Vehicle exports totalled 28,784; 105,555 four-cylinder engines were exported
2002 Holden announced a $2 billion investment in capacity expansion over five years; much of the expenditure aimed at servicing export markets
First Monaro export program to the Middle East confirmed, starting 2003
2003 Plans announced to export Holden Commodore to Thailand and Malaysia as Chevrolet Lumina
USA Monaro (Pontiac GTO) shipments commenced in final quarter
Vauxhall confirmed that it would start importing the Monaro
Vehicle exports of 36,069 units were the second highest on record to 1973
Holden commences production of V6 engines with the first exports going to GM de Mexico
2004 Holden confirmed a long-wheelbase sedan based on the WL Statesman would be exported to GM Daewoo, South Korea from early 2005
Chevrolet Caprice Royale named Saudi Arabia’s Car of the Year
2005 Four millionth export engine, a 2.8 litre Turbo V6, shipped to Sweden in November
Vehicle exports of 60,518 (sedan, ute and coupe) set an all-time record
2006 First VE Commodore and WM Statesman/Caprice models shipped to Middle East, South Africa, Brazil and New Zealand in September
The Chevrolet Caprice was named 2006 Autocar Middle East ‘Best Luxury Car’ in December.
Record year for exports to the Middle East (31,000 units)
2007 New export market for VE sedans announced – SS Commodore to be sold in the US as Pontiac G8
Exports to Korea of WM Caprice-based model and Global V6 engine exports to China confirmed
2008 Pontiac G8 goes on sale in the US. It is shortlisted for the North American Car of the Year Award
1000th Ute exported to South Africa
2009 The Chevrolet Police Patrol Vehicle US export program was announced in October
2010 A niche export program to Brazil was announced. Holden exported 600 of the special edition Chevrolet Omega vehicles based on the Series II Commodore. The model was represented in Brazil by motor racing icon, Emerson Fittipaldi and called the Omega Fittipaldi.
2011 Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicles hit the streets of North America