No longer the Commodore car company: new SUV and ute focus
PASSENGER cars are still part of the picture but Holden is highlighting its range of SUVs and work utes as it belatedly joins the shift towards high-riding vehicles.
Holden CEO Dave Buttner says the company once synonymous with locally built sedans is redefining its image as it moves from industry heavyweight to a challenger brand.
"We're unashamedly focusing on our SUV and LCV (light commercial vehicle) portfolio. It's where the market is and of course they are more profitable product lines than others that we have," Buttner told media at an drive event at the company's Lang Lang proving grounds.
Buttner also took a swipe at unattributed reports that Inchcape - local importer of Subaru, Citroen and Peugeot - was negotiating to take over distribution of Holden's Opel-sourced Commodore and Astra.
Tellingly, though, he didn't outright refute all aspects of the story. "I've seen speculation about the future of Opel-sourced production in the line-up and I think people are getting ahead of themselves," he says.
"There's still a substantial segment and we have products to hit those segments head-on.
"They're not products where we need to build awareness … people are aware of the Commodore and Astra … we need to build our other nameplates (Acadia, Equinox and Trailblazer).
"As our portfolio continues to evolve over time we'll take decisions on future product based on customer preferences, vehicle dynamics and performance and the contribution the vehicle makes to the financial performance of all stakeholders surrounding our brand."
Buttner took over as head of Holden in August last year and has since been dealing with a massive oversupply of Commodore and Equinox, which led to him halting deliveries in October. He also shuttered some dealerships and toured the remaining network to determine which issues to tackle first.
He says: "We've got our stock in order - there's (been) a 55 per cent reduction in our (Commodore) stock … and we've now resumed deliveries from Europe. We've right-sized our national sales company, welcomed some strong investments from GM and launched two new nameplates in dominant growth segments in Australia. The focus now is to shift the dial on awareness and consideration."
Holden's marketing head Kristian Aquilina says the company finally has its collective head around not being the "Commodore car company".
"The brand that was once dominant in what was the dominant sector of the time is now a challenger," he says. "Once we embrace this new reality, it is actually a pretty exciting time.
"We are a domestic automotive brand - the only one born here and the only one that gets Aussies and Kiwis better than any other brand.
"We're a little late to the party but we have a full set of great SUVs. When you're late to any party no one knows you've arrived unless you make some sort of grand entrance.
"That's what this new campaign is about … we need to fish where the fish are and 65 per cent of the market (is not passenger car).
"We need to move with the times and we've got the product to do that, we just need people to consider Holdens when they think of SUVs."