Strewth, a foreign Holden? General Motors hopes Australian icon will endure

General MotorsIt's as much a part of Australia as kangaroos, the Sydney Opera House or vegemite, and General Motors Co's decision to stop manufacturing Holdens in the country looks like the marketing equivalent of a car crash. Reuters

It's as much a part of Australia as kangaroos, the Sydney Opera House or vegemite, and General Motors Co's decision to stop manufacturing Holdens in the country looks like the marketing equivalent of a car crash.

Australians have reacted with a mixture of anger, sadness and resignation to GM's pre-Christmas announcement that it will stop making cars in Australia by 2017 due to high costs and a cripplingly strong currency.

But GM and independent brand experts are confident Holden will not only survive the public relations nightmare, they expect it to endure as one of the most valuable assets GM has ever built down under.

"The fact that they're no longer made here will cause some dissatisfaction and backlash but there'll still be a lot of people who like them," said Danny Samson, professor of management at Melbourne University. "It's a very well regarded brand and there's no way you'd want to throw it away."

While a combination of a strong pipeline of new models, effective retraining for affected staff and continued investment in its distribution network would help Holden mitigate the fallout, its biggest asset will be its long and much-loved history in Australia.

As Australia rose to prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s, feeding and clothing a Europe recovering from World War 2, the vehicle it drove was the Holden ute.

The ute - short for utility vehicle - became ubiquitous in both Australia's countryside - the bush - and the suburbs, its pick-up style flat bed handy for transporting surfboards or sheep.

Holden's popularity continued to grow during the 1970s, driven by the success of its HQ series and the celebrated in its advertising campaign featuring the jingle "Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars" - an Australian version of the North American "Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pies and Chevrolet" ad.

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