The last VZ Commodore, a white wagon, rolls off the production line at GM Holden Ltd.’s Elizabeth vehicle assembly plant in South Australia, marking an end to a significant period in the General Motors Corp. subsidiary’s history.

The all-new VE Commodore range replaced the VZ late last year.

The VZ Commodore and its earlier derivatives, the VY, VX and VT Commodores, were critically important to securing GM Holden’s manufacturing base in Australia over the last decade.

More than 1.2 million VT series derivatives, including the Commodore, Ute, Monaro, Pontiac GTO and long-wheel-base models, were built at Elizabeth.

“For over a year, our vehicle manufacturing operation has been producing cars on two product lines – the old VZ model and the new VE/WM car line,” GM Holden Manufacturing Executive Director Rod Keane says. “This has made our manufacturing life complex. But thanks to the flexibility of both our people and our technology we have succeeded in transitioning the plant to a single car line.

“With the growing domestic and export success of the new VE and WM models, from October onwards we will see the plant operating at the maximum line rate of 620 cars a day.”

The VT Commodore was GM Holden’s first vehicle designed to suit both left- and right- hand-drive configurations, with many technological “firsts” for an Australian car. These included traction control, a feature now included as standard on all of GM Holden’s Australian-made vehicles.

GM Holden’s exports hit records with the VZ Commodore. The auto maker posted its strongest-ever sales overseas in 2005 at the height of the VZ’s worldwide popularity.

Keane says exports have grown to become an ever more critical part of GM Holden’s manufacturing future.

“From the middle of next year, we expect that half of all the cars we build at Elizabeth will be exported under five GM brand names, including Pontiac, Chevrolet, Vauxhall, Daewoo, and of course, Holden,” he says.

Since the launch of the VT Commodore in 1997, the Commodore has remained the best-selling passenger vehicle in Australia every year and currently is on track to retain that title in 2007.

Next year, GM Holden celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Commodore nameplate as well as the 60th anniversary of the first Holden ever built, the 48-215 (later known as the FX).