Holden's Future Remains Bleak

Photo: Holden

Car production ended in Australia in 2017, a sad moment that marked the end of something without a clear new beginning. You can still buy Holdens in the country, but they are imported from Germany. Sales, meanwhile, have fallen off a cliff, and keep getting worse.

It was as late as 2002 that Holden was the best-selling brand in Australia, but this year, according to The West Australian, it is down to 4.2 per cent market share, down from 5.3 per cent last summer, with September “the first time the brand had ever failed to sell 3,000 vehicles in a month.”

And perhaps because of all that its chairman David Buttner, who joined the GM-owned company last August, is leaving, GM announced Monday. It is for “personal reasons,” of course, but companies caught in a death spiral like Holden are the kind of companies that will eat executives alive.

Still, they could be stirred to furnish some quotes for GM’s press release.

“Holden’s focus remains on getting onto the consideration list for SUV and LCV buyers in Australia and New Zealand,” said Buttner. “We have made significant progress in getting the fundamentals right. Now is the right time for me to depart the business, with a strong team in place, to be led by [leader of GM Holden’s commercial operations, Kristian Aquilina].”

Aquilina said the business priorities led by Buttner would remain his key focus.

“Under Dave’s leadership, we have laid out clear priorities for the business. While much progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to do,” said Aquilina. “My focus is on providing continuity around the execution of our plans, ensuring the team at Holden, including dealers and partners, continue to focus on our customers.”

The problem with Holden is that, like in the States, few people in Australia are interested in anymore in the kinds of big sedans it made its name on, and instead want SUVs, all of the SUVs, and Holden’s SUVs—rebadged Chevy SUVs—are all pretty boring. The brand seems likely to live on for now though, to what purpose exactly isn’t clear. GM has shown in the past that it isn’t afraid to cut underperforming parts of its business loose, as they did in Europe.

Via The West Australian:

Buttner went on record earlier this year to deny rumours distributor Inchcape could soon take over the brand, claiming he didn’t come out of retirement to close or sell Holden.

The rumours carried extra weight given Inchcape handles Australian distribution of Peugeot and Citroen, which now build the Holden Astra and Commodore (Insignia) since PSA bought GM’s European brands Opel and Vauxhall two years ago.

Toyota, Mazda, and Hyundai all dominate the Australian car market these days. My big idea: Holden should be nationalised, and allowed to continue making cars forever.

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