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Tea Leaves

Australia's Holden runs out of road

Demise of iconic brand marks the end of an era for the country's car industry

The first Holden built in Australia, the 1948 Holden 48-215 prototype 4 (Photo by Geoff Hiscock)

Australia is a car country. In a nation where owning a house with a backyard is considered a birthright, suburbs seem to stretch endlessly from town centers to the horizon. Vast stretches of open highway separate the major cities. Brisbane, on the Pacific coast, is 4,300km from Perth, on the shores of the Indian Ocean. With almost 19 million vehicles, Australia's car count is not much smaller than the population (25 million). Of the many brands on Australia's roads, though, only one is cherished as the nation's own.

Holden, which began as a saddlery business in South Australia in the 1850s, is unquestionably Australia's car. "There can barely be a family in Australia that at one stage or another has not garaged a Holden vehicle," John Howard, Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister, declared when marking the 50th anniversary of its first model in 1998.

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