Holden wants to become Australia’s favourite brand again – within just three years of ending local manufacturing in 2017.
The company’s newly appointed boss, Gerry Dorizas, revealed the bold intention at his first meeting with Australian media on Thursday evening.
Dorizas took the helm of Holden on 1 March 2014, three months after parent company General Motors announced the brand would stop making cars in Australia from 2017.
He has spent a busy first month checking out the Holden dealer network across Australia and driving the company’s vehicle lineup against a range of rival models.
“I think the strategy is to go back to being number one [brand in Australia],” said Dorizas.
“In a boxing match there are 12 rounds. If you say we are a heavyweight, we’ve gone eight rounds and there are some rounds to go.”
When pushed on timing for the target, Dorizas said: “We’re saying 2020.”
Dorizas also warned, however, that the current era of record-low car prices couldn’t continue in Australia.
“We have seen the prices fall [here] in a big way. With the cost of living [here] being more expensive, if not more than double, than Germany… that is not sustainable.
“I believe prices will go up at some particular time. How profitable are these dealers with sales? How profitable are they with the pushing of sales in order to do [high] numbers.”
The Holden boss pointed out that the number of dealers in North America had dropped from about 68,000 in the late 1990s to about 28,000 today.
Dorizas said he didn’t believe Holden’s cessation of manufacturing in 2017 would have a negative impact on buyer perception of the brand, but added the company had to work on rejuvenating its image and improving customer retention.
“We will always be an Australian brand,” he said. “[But] the experience of the customer makes the brand, the right products make the brand.
“We have a fair understanding of where we are. All companies proclaim they are customer oriented but we want to have the best customer satisfaction.
“We have to get customers back. We have to delight customers. We have to train dealers, technicians so everyone [representing Holden] has a common language.
“We know what the [Holden] DNA is but we have to make it more modern. The brand has to become younger.”
Dorizas admits there is a lot of work for Holden to do.
It’s 11 years since Holden was the most popular car brand in Australian, when it was overtaken by Toyota. The company’s 2013 sales total of 112,059 was sufficient for the No.2 spot but the figure was close to half that of its Japanese rival’s (214,630).
In the first quarter of 2014, it has slipped a spot with Mazda sneaking ahead.
New versions of the Commodore and Cruze are planned to be imported in their place, while Holden is expected to start revealing its plans for a wave of new imports in the coming months.
After switching from mostly European-focused imports to bringing first rebadged Daewoos and then South Korean sourced GM products from the middle of the last decade, the company is now looking to re-introduce models from Europe once more.
This includes Opel models after the German arm of GM exited the Australian market in late 2013 after less than a year.
A GM insider told CarAdvice earlier this year that the Astra is one nameplate set to return under a Holden badge, including three-door and hot-hatch versions of the small car that are set to sit alongside the Cruze range that misses out on such variants.