There are few cars as fascinating as the Holden Commodore. To Americans, it represented a bygone era of large, rear-wheel-drive sedans. In Australia, the Commodore was a staple, earning the title of the country’s most successful car over the last 40 years, selling 2.4 million examples and hitting a sales record in 1998 with 94,642 units sold. In 2018, the Commodore changed. Australian production ceased at the end of 2017 with the all-new fifth-generation ZB Commodore imported from Germany, riding on a front-/all-wheel-drive platform.
The Holden Commodore debuted Oct. 26, 1978, and it was a more efficient replacement for the Kingswood. To build the new car, the Australian automaker looked to Opel—another General Motors brand—for help. The first Commodore blended an Opel Rekord E bodyshell with an Opel Senator A front end. The first generation lasted a decade.
The second-generation Commodore grew in response to the larger Ford Falcon. It sported either a V6 or V8 mill. In 1997, the third-generation debuted with the sedan again growing in size. This was also the beginning of the Commodore’s 15-year streak as the country’s top-selling car.
Less than 10 years later in 2006 Holden completely redesigned the sedan, developing the car from the ground up in Australia. It was the first Commodore not to share Opel origins. However, the automotive landscape was changing. Customers were flocking to small cars, SUVs, and crossovers, leaving the comfort of large family sedans.
Slowing Holden Commodore sales led to the production ceasing in Australia in 2017, ushering out the only homemade Holden ever produced. The 2018 model is another German import—it’s a second-generation Opel Insignia with a Holden badge. It’s the first Commodore to discard its rear-wheel-drive lineage for a front-/all-wheel-drive platform. However, not even an all-new model could slow the sales decline. Holden is looking at the fewest Commodore sales ever in 2018.