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The demise of Holden was a sad chapter in the Australian automotive industry, with what was once considered unthinkable eventually becoming inevitable.

Or was it?

Did General Motors make the right decision to close down Holden and effectively give up on the mainstream automotive market in Australia? Should GM have instead considered an alternative plan, remaining a key player in the local market but instead replacing Holden with the Chevrolet brand?

During what turned out to be the final years of Holden there was often speculation that the Chevrolet brand would replace the Lion badge. It turned out to be true, to a certain degree, with General Motors Speciality Vehicles (GMSV) effectively taking the place of Holden Down Under.

While GMSV has so far proven a promising niche offering for the American giant, a closer examination of the 2023 Chevrolet line-up shows a range of vehicles that would seemingly have given GM a strong chance of remaining a top five brand in the country.

One of the supposed strengths of Holden during its final years was its ability to draw from across the GM brands, but you could also argue the opposite. The final Holden line-up ended up with a hodgepodge of models from Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Opel all with the Lion badge stuck on.

A wholesale switch to an all-Chevy line-up could have given GM a fresh start whilst still leveraging the legacy of Holden, with its extensive dealer network and the obvious connection between the two brands.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a rundown of how the 2022 Chevrolet line-up could have looked if GM had chosen a different path.

Chevrolet Trailblazer - replacing Holden Trax

Yes, it would have been a little confusing switching Holden’s largest SUV nameplate to its smallest SUV, but the compact Chevy is a stylish offering that comes with both sporty RS and rugged ACTIV variants.

Both are powered by a 155kW 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine and there’s a less powerful 1.2-litre engine for the cheaper models in the range. 

While the Trax was a solid offering, the better-looking Trailblazer would have stood a better chance against the popular Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR.

Chevrolet Blazer - replacing Holden Equinox 

The Equinox is a good example of the wrong car at the right time. Holden desperately needed a good mid-size SUV to replace the unloved Captiva and sadly the Equinox was not it.

A disappointing driving experience as well as a conservative exterior and interior design meant the Equinox struggled against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5.

The Chevy Blazer is a more stylish and sportier version of the Equinox, and if Australians love two things it’s SUVs and sporty models.

One major difference between the two Chevys is that the Blazer is available with a 230kW 3.6-litre V6 engine in the range-topping RS model, which would have been a point-of-difference in the market.

Even more than that, Chevrolet has confirmed the Blazer EV is coming by 2024 and will likely extend the already sporty line-up with a rival to the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and Kia EV6 GT. An electric mid-size SUV is likely to become a ‘must-have’ for any serious car company by the middle of this decade, so Chevrolet would have been ideally placed to compete in the Australian market.

Chevrolet Tahoe - replacing Holden Acadia 

The Acadia was the best example of GM’s lackadaisical attitude to Holden, because instead of working to get the Chevrolet Traverse that was the seven-seat sibling to the Equinox we got this GMC version. It was a completely different model from a different brand with a different design language; it would be a bit like Hyundai sticking its badge on the Kia Stinger and trying to sell it in Hyundai showrooms. 

Instead, the ideal seven-seat option for Australia was arguably the Tahoe - Chevy’s big, boxy SUV that would have been unlike anything else on sale locally.

It’s based on the same basic underpinnings as the Chevy Silverado 1500, and it’s an open-secret that HSV was trying to build a business case to convert it locally before the GMSV deal took over.

The choice of a 313kW 6.2-litre V8 or 200kW 3.0-litre turbo diesel would have given Chevrolet a genuine rival to the likes of the Toyota Kluger and Prado, as well as the likes of the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9.

Chevrolet Suburban - replacing Holden Trailblazer

Naturally if Chevrolet brought the Tahoe it would only make sense to offer the extended Suburban. Holden tried it back in the late 1990s and it was seen as too big then, but these days it seems Australians love their SUVs bigger the better.

While it wouldn’t have been as off-road capable as the Colorado-based Trailblazer, the Suburban would undoubtedly steal sales from the likes of not only the Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol but also potentially the Range Rover, BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS.

Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado 1500 - replacing Holden Colorado 

The biggest loss from the Holden line-up would have been the Colorado, as it was the brand’s biggest seller by a significant margin. In fact, GM’s decision to sell the Thai factory where the Colorado was built was perhaps the final nail in the coffin for Holden.

However, Chevrolet has its own US-version of the Colorado that would have not only been able to step in and replace the Aussie-version of the ute, but also been something different. The US version is slightly larger and comes with its own Raptor-rival, the ZR2 with a 230kW V6 petrol engine and state-of-the-art off-road dampers.

Plus, Chevrolet would have also had the Silverado 1500 (as well as the bigger 2500 and 3500) to extend its ute line-up. So even if they would have been more expensive than the Holden Colorado, Chevrolet’s current success with the Silverado suggests the US models would have been a fitting replacement.

Plus, there’s also the Silverado EV looming in 2024, which has the potential to be a game-changer for the brand.

Chevrolet Corvette - replacing Holden Commodore

At first glance the idea of replacing the Commodore with the Corvette seems ridiculous. But it’s less ridiculous than trying to replace it with another passenger car, especially when the only option is the forgettable Malibu (a badge with a very negative Australian reputation).

The Corvette C8 is arguably the car with the closest appeal to Holden’s once-beloved, locally-made Commodore range. The V8-powered SS and SS-V models - plus the HSV variants - were the heart and soul of the brand and the Corvette would represent that same spirit for Chevrolet.

Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist
Steve has been obsessed with all things automotive for as long as he can remember. Literally, his earliest memory is of a car. Having amassed an enviable Hot Wheels and Matchbox collection as a kid he moved into the world of real cars with an Alfa Romeo Alfasud. Despite that questionable history he carved a successful career for himself, firstly covering motorsport for Auto Action magazine before eventually moving into the automotive publishing world with CarsGuide in 2008. Since then he's worked for every major outlet, having work published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Drive.com.au, Street Machine, V8X and F1 Racing. These days he still loves cars as much as he did as a kid and has an Alfa Romeo Alfasud in the garage (but not the same one as before... that's a long story).
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