Holden was founded in 1856 as the J.A. Holden & Co., a saddler. In 1913, they began producing motorcycle sidecar bodies, and by the next year they were producing custom car-bodies. Just over a decade later, Holden became the sole supplier for General Motors vehicles in Australia.
General Motors of Australia (formed only five years before) combined with Holden in 1931. In 1934, they produced the first coupe-utility, a four-door car combined with a pickup bed (sideways reminds me that no Australian would ever call it a coupe-utility, but instead simply a "ute"). Prime Minister Ben Chifley oversaw the 1948 unveiling of the world's first Australian car: the Holden 48-215 FX. Demand for the car ran so high that the waiting list stretched well into 1949.
Holden prides itself in "Australian safety firsts." In 1966, they were the first Australian carmaker to fit seatbelts on all models. Two years later, they pioneered the collapsing steering column. During the 90s, they were also the first Australian company to use ABS and driver's-side airbags. They also began Australia's first vehicle crash testing program in the 1970s.
The current Holden lineup inclues the subcompact Barina, a three or five-door hatchback. The Astra is a cousin of the European-market Opel Astra, and is available as a sedan, hatchback, or convertible. The Commodore is a large sedan with optional V8 engine, and is the basis for the Holden Ute and Crewman two-door and four-door utes. The V8-powered Holden Monaro is their premiere sports car, and will be recognized by Americans as the base for the new Pontiac GTO.