Browse over 9,000 car reviews

The Aussie car market has changed post Holden, and HSV-birthing Walkinshaw Automotive Group has changed with it

Australian manufacturing is still alive and well thanks to outfits like Walkinshaw.

Holden might not have been able to pivot fast enough in an automotive world that quickly moved away from passenger cars, but Walkinshaw Automotive Group (WAG) has not made the same mistake.

WAG, who started Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) back in 1987, were known for building go-fast models like the 1988 VL SS Group A, 2001 GTS Coupe, 2015 Maloo GTS and 2017 Gen-F2 GTSR W1, but is now solely in the business of working on full-size pick-ups and utes.

And while models like the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado are yet to light up the sales charts and drag strips like the Commodore did back in its hey-day, WAG director Ryan Walkinshaw told CarsGuide that the company is happy with the change in direction.

“The audience that we speak to is different, and that’s ok,” he said. “The market is different to what it used to be then as well, so we followed the market.

“It didn’t take a scientist to go and evaluate what the passenger car volume has been over the last 20 years, and for us to have kept focusing on that would have been quite naïve and pretty stupid.”

Mr Walkinshaw said the demise of Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon didn’t also mean the demise of that buyer type, and that the customers just shifted preferences to a different vehicle.

“The market that now adopts a similar sort of customer is the ute market. The people that are these days going and buying a product and spending 20 grand to make it look shit hot – they are now doing that with utes, and they used to do it with old Commodores and Falcons,” he said.

“The market has changed, but customer’s demands and ambitions for their products is similar. The product they are using for their base product is different, and that’s why we’re seeing so much growth in this commercial ute market.”

WAG has its hand in converting the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado for Australian consumption, and has also partnered with Toyota to produce a right-hand-drive Tundra from late next year.

The starting price for these models is $82,950 before on-road costs for the older-generation Ram 1500 Express, while the TRX performance halo will set buyers back nearly $200,000 and is currently sold out.

And while it’s easy enough to see buyers who would have put down money for a HSV GTS paying similar coin for a full-size US pick-up like a Chevrolet Silverado, Mr Walkinshaw said he is surprised with exactly how much some ute customers are willing to spend.

“There’s a lot of great product out there, it’s very, very competitive, but it’s still growing, and the price ceiling keeps going higher and higher,” he said.

“People keep bringing out bigger and better products, and being more ambitious with what they bring, and they continue to sell – and at some point that may cap off, it probably will cap off – but at the moment, it’s still really, really exciting and it’s exactly the market we want to play in.”

For reference, the one of the last HSV models ever made was the 2017 GTSR W1 priced at $169,990 at the time, which would get buyers into a right-hand-drive-converted Ram 3500 ($168,950) now.