Holden’s demise still raw one year on for Skaife

The then factory Holden team won last year’s Bathurst 1000

Mark Skaife says his feelings haven’t changed and is still in disbelief a year since it was announced the Holden brand would be retired.

On February 17, 2020, it was confirmed General Motors would pull out of all right-hand-drive markets by the end of the year, bringing with it the demise of Holden.

Founded in 1856 out of Adelaide, the brand established itself as the pre-eminent manufacturer in Australia.

Holden survived the turn of two millennia, but as the motoring landscape changed, Holden ultimately couldn’t keep its place atop the market.

From its inception until the early 2000s, Holden enjoyed a strong share of domestic sales.

Its most well-known car, the Commodore, was among the best sellers in the country. But as the years wore on, sales fell, eventually ceding position in its own ranks to the Colorado ute.

By 2017, local manufacturing had ceased. The Commodore name continued, albeit on a German-built platform.

Soon after it was announced Holden would cease to exist as a brand, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The then factory Holden team, Triple Eight Race Engineering, had planned to pay homage to the brand throughout the 2020 season through fan engagements at each event.

However, it was a coronavirus-disrupted Supercars season which saw either saw very few or no fans in attendance due to restrictions.

Speaking with Speedcafe.com, five-time Supercars champion Skaife said he still cannot believe the brand was axed.

“I think what’s happened since the announcement in 2020 is that we’ve all unanimously agreed that 2020 could have been the worst year we’ve ever lived in,” said Skaife.

“We’ve certainly never experienced some of the things that unfolded.

“If you think about the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic and some of the other things, we were totally blown away with an announcement to retire the Holden brand.

“To be really frank, I still can’t get my brain around it. I just never thought that in sort of a cultural way that Australia would not have Holden.

“I’m sure that a lot of people still feel the same way. Those feelings haven’t changed.”

Skaife lamented an inability for fans to savour the final Supercars season with Holden in a factory presence.

“There was a lot of planning in the background for a lot of motorsport and motoring enthusiasts to celebrate Holden,” said Skaife.

“That’s even at the coalface. The dealers, so many of them have been long serving people that have been selling that brand for generations and they weren’t able to do the things that were planned.

“The reality is far bigger than motorsport, it’s the role that Holden has played in wider society, a part of the social fabric of Australia. I said this a lot through 2020, there’s two ways of viewing Holden’s contribution in terms of Australia’s DNA.

“On one hand, it’s the people that have worked at Holden, whether they’ve been at the Fishermans Bend engine plant, or worked at head office, or they worked at a dealership, or worked at the assembly line in Elizabeth, wherever it was, it was generations of Australians, millions who have worked for Holden in one way, shape, or form.

“Then if you take that, in terms of what the Holden brand has been as the number one, selling cars for a large period of time, you then think about families. There’s almost not a family in this country that hasn’t had some sort of Holden story.

“Your sister had a Gemini or your young bloke had a panel van or ute. It’s very hard to find a family that didn’t have some sort of patronage of the Holden brand. It’s still a difficult realisation that it’s not around.”

The demise of Holden was in part tempered by a fairytale finish to the year, which saw the factory team win the Bathurst 1000.

This season will be the last that the Commodore nameplate features in the Supercars Championship before Gen3 is introduced.

The Chevrolet Camaro will replace the Holden Commodore next year, officially bringing an end to the iconic car’s involvement in the sport.

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