In 1852, James Alexander Holden emigrated to South Australia from Walsall, England and in 1856 established J.A. Holden & Co, a saddlery business in Adelaide. Edward Holden, James' son, joined the firm in 1905 with an interest in automobiles. From there, the firm evolved through various partnerships and, in 1908, Holden and Frost moved into the business of minor repairs to car upholstery. The company began to produce complete motorcycle sidecar bodies in 1913, and Edward experimented with fitting bodies to different types of carriages. After 1917, wartime trade restrictions led the company to start full-scale production of vehicle body shells. J.A. Holden founded a new company in 1919, Holden's Motor Body Builders Ltd (HMBB) specialising in car bodies. By 1923, HMBB were producing 12,000 units per year.
Holden began to export vehicles in 1954, sending the FJ to New Zealand. Exports to New Zealand have continued ever since, but to broaden their export potential, Holden began to cater their Commodore, Monaro and Statesman models for both right- and left-hand drive markets. The Middle East is now Holden's largest export market, with the Commodore sold as the Chevrolet Lumina since 1998, and the Statesman since 1999 as the Chevrolet Caprice. Commodores are also sold as the Chevrolet Lumina in Brunei, Fiji and South Africa, to Brazil as the Chevrolet Omega, and since 2008 to North America as the Pontiac G8. The G8 is lightly modified, with a unique front fascia and rear decklid to better integrate with Pontiac's own design language.
The logo, or "Holden lion and stone" as it is known, has played a vital role in establishing Holden's identity. In 1928, Holden's Motor Body Builders appointed Rayner Hoff to design the emblem. The logo refers to a prehistoric fable, in which observations of lions rolling stones led to the invention of the wheel. With the 1948 launch of the 48-215, Holden revised its logo and commissioned another redesign in 1972 to better represent the company. The emblem was reworked once more in 1994.