The General Motors executive in charge of our region has conceded that Holden may not achieve its ambitious target of dethroning Toyota to become the number one automotive brand in Australia by 2020.
GM executive vice president and president of GM International Stefan Jacoby today presented somewhat softened ambitions for the brand following the announcement of the appointment of Australian and former Holden chief financial officer Mark Bernhard to the role of chairman and managing director.
“If it is 2020, or 2022, that is not that important,” Jacoby started.
“I think we need to have an aspirational objective, and that objective fits to what Holden has as a potential. It’s an iconic Australian brand. It’s the automotive brand in Australia since 1948. We are producing cars under that iconic brand name and we have success and we want to continue with that success.”
The ambitious target of knocking off Toyota to become Australia’s favourite brand by 2020 was first announced by previous boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned from the top job after just seven months at the helm.
Dorizas was firm in his commitment to the targeted date, which was to come within three years of the end of local manufacturing in 2017.
“We’re saying 2020,” Dorizas said in April 2014.
Jacoby today admitted that becoming number one would not be easy, given Toyota’s current dominance of the market. Toyota has been the top-selling automotive brand in Australia for the past 12 years, and as good as doubled Holden’s sales in 2014, delivering 203,501 cars versus 106,092.
“I think it is a challenging objective,” Jacoby acknowledged.
“When we say we want to be the number one, we want to be the number one not only in respect of sales, but we want to transform this business into sustainable profitability, a perfect customer experience, with a really appealing product range in the market as well, so there is more than just saying we want to be the market leader.
“I think we need to see this on a broader perspective and I think that we are moving on all the elements of this business. We have initiated the brand campaigns, we are improving customer satisfaction, we are working on a product portfolio.
“We are in this very difficult transition towards a national sales company with a lot of challenges in respect of our employees. We are managing this well and we still have the aspiration to be on the top of the market here in Australia.”
Holden sales declined 5.2 per cent in January to 8401 in a market that was down just 0.2 per cent overall, and its share of the market slipped from 10.8 to 10.2 per cent.
Meanwhile, Toyota sales increased 0.1 per cent to 13,661 and its market share remained steady at 16.6 per cent.
Holden was actually bumped to third place in January, slipping behind Mazda, which notched up 9006 sales for an 11.0 per cent share of the market.
Holden faces an uphill battle in a market where luxury brands and SUV and commercial vehicle specialists are experiencing the greatest growth.
Audi, BMW, Isuzu, Jeep, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all gained significant market share in 2014 while Holden slipped from 9.9 to 9.5 per cent. Mainstream brands Fiat, Hyundai, Renault, Subaru and Volkswagen also posted market share gains last year.
Spearheading Holden’s pursuit of its ambitious target will be a significant influx of new product.
Jacoby today announced plans to launch 24 so-called major new vehicles and 36 new powertrains over the next five years, including a trio of Opel models in the coming months, a new Barina Spark early next year, a Captiva replacement and another new SUV (potentially this new 2018 Opel flagship SUV), a successor to the Australian-made Commodore and a high-end sports car in 2018, potentially an expanded commercial vehicle range, and more broadly reaffirmed that more than one third of Holden’s line-up will be sourced from Europe.