It all began in 1948 and we’re still Holden on
Despite the loss of local manufacturing – and the Australian Commodore – and despite market share dipping below 10 per cent in 2017, Holden believes sharper pricing, fresher product and more customer care will help it transition to operating as a full-scale importer.
The bigger challenge is the restoration of faith and confidence in the Red Lion badge.
Marketing director Mark Harland always has one key statistic in front of him: 64 per cent of Australians are indifferent to the Holden badge right now.
“That’s the number that keeps me up at night, that’s the number that motivates me during the day,” he says. “It doesn’t mean they love us, doesn’t mean they hate us, they’re just kind of not sure where Holden is going.”
He agrees it’s a tough period with Holden exiting manufacturing and consumers still uncertain.
“What I can tell you is we’re in it to win it. The leadership (General Motors) is 100 per cent behind us.”
Holden’s sales director Michael Filazzola sees green shoots with renewed product rolling into showrooms plus more emphasis on customer care, from take-away test drives to capped price servicing and finance packages.
“My mantra is to build a profitable and sustainable business at Holden,” Filazzola said at last year’s launch of the American-designed, Korean-built and Australian-tuned Astra sedan.
“I don’t want to chase market share, I don’t want to sell volume for the sake of it. And we want to keep selling a complete product range, we don’t want to rely on one product.”
Holden promised in 2015 there’d be 24 new or reworked models by 2020.
These include the all-new Astra sedans and Sportwagon plus the Equinox, from $27,990 and a replacement for the Captiva SUV, launched last season.
To come this year are the larger Acadia SUV and the “next-gen” Commodore by Opel, including a high-riding, all-wheel drive wagon, the Cross Tourer.
(Despite Opel being sold to French PSA automotive concern, makers of Citroen and Peugeot, Holden holds no concerns that contracts will be honoured for cars such as Astra and the new Commodore.)
All these are now backed by a seven-year warranty.
Holden will continue to field cars, albeit V6-powered, in the Australian Supercars race series and there is also the promise of a rear-wheel drive, V8-powered sports car to top the showroom range down the track.
There remains some 200 dealer showrooms around Australia employing almost 6000 people and Holden continues to employ 1000 direct staff, some of these still involved in design and engineering.
So, with a range of vehicles from city cars to sports machines, the Holden name lives on – even while it can never recapture past glories.