GM's Holden brand is popular among racing fans down under, and it's been a regular fixture at events like the Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar Race in Australia. Photo: Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

General Motors is retiring its Holden brand from sales in Australia and New Zealand and winding down operations in the two countries and Thailand by 2021, the company confirmed in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The Holden brand has been in Australia and New Zealand for 160 years, per a GM statement issued in Australia. It is beloved by many motor racing fans down under. Holden produced Australia's first wholly locally made car in 1948.

  • The Holden Commodore was the country's bestselling car for 15 years until 2011, the Courier Mail notes. But Holden's market share fell in Australia to 4.1% from almost 13% in 2009, per Bloomberg, which notes the "downsizing is part of a long-running strategy at GM since the Detroit-based company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009."

Details: The automaker announced in the statement that it's also withdrawing the Chevrolet from Thailand's domestic market by the end of this year and selling its Rayong factory there to China's Great Wall Motors.

By the numbers: GM expects to take $1.1 billion in cash and noncash charges this year from the operations in cuts in the countries, the company's news release states.

The big picture: GM has been "investing billions to transform its business for the future," Axios' Joann Muller notes, and GM's latest announcement fits in with this transition toward a focus on electric and autonomous vehicles.

  • CEO Mary Barra said in the news release the company was restructuring international operations, to focus on markets "where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in the areas of EVs and AVs."

What else they're saying: GM Senior Vice President and President GM International Steve Kiefer said in the statement the firm is well positioned in its core international core markets of South America, the Middle East and Korea.

  • GM International Operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett added, "we are pursuing a niche presence by selling profitable, high-end imported vehicles – supported by a lean GM structure."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details on GM's plans and more context.

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