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John Bagshaw dies at 87

Charisma corner: John Bagshaw enjoyed a good relationship with PM Bob Hawke during their time at the top in Australia.

Hugely popular former Holden and Vauxhall boss John Bagshaw dies

General News logo12 Jun 2012

ONE of the greats of the Australian motor industry – former Holden managing director John Bagshaw – died at the age of 87 on the Gold Coast on Friday, 8 June.

Mr Bagshaw was the last Australian head of Holden, serving between 1987 and 1990.

Known universally as “Bags”, he is credited with leading Holden’s return to profitability with the successful VN Commodore program and its controversial joint venture and product development program with Toyota.

He subsequently moved overseas, holding senior executive roles for General Motors in Britain, Europe and the United States before returning to Australia and retiring to Queensland after a stellar 42-year career with GM.

However, it was arguably his period in the Holden sales department in the late 1960s and 1970s that created the Bagshaw legend in Australia, including the creation of the famed Holden Dealer Team with the recruitment of legendary team manager Harry Firth from Ford.

Under Mr Bagshaw and the HDT, Holden produced a succession of iconic Australian muscle cars, including the Monaro GTS, Torana XU-1 and Torana L34, all of which became Bathurst race winners.

Mr Bagshaw was a larger-than-life character who had a huge impact on the Holden dealer network. In a statement issued today, Holden said he was still “much loved by the Holden dealer community to this day”.

 center imageHolden described him as a trailblazer who was “hugely admired and respected in every corner of GM’s global organisation”.

After serving in the Royal Australian Navy, Mr Bagshaw joined Holden in Western Australia in 1948, following his father, a dealership sales manager in Perth, into the auto industry.

He moved to Holden’s headquarters in Melbourne and rose through the management ranks in sales and distribution before becoming sales director in 1972.

Leaving Australia in 1978, Mr Bagshaw worked overseas for nine years in corporate international marketing and for the Pontiac brand in Detroit, Michigan, as well as senior leadership positions with GM’s Vauxhall and Opel brands in Germany, eventually becoming Vauxhall managing director in the UK.

After turning around Vauxhall, he returned home as Holden MD, applying his skills for motivating and inspiring employees and marketing the brand and its products.

Holden said he was “a great Australian business leader, global automotive industry executive and champion of motorsport leaving an indelible mark on Holden and its people”.

Mr Bagshaw is succeeded by his wife Gillian, three daughters Liz, Karen and Lauren, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service for Mr Bagshaw will be held on the Gold Coast in coming weeks.

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