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by Matt Campbell

The chairman and managing director of Holden, Mark Bernhard, has made it clear that sales numbers are not the be-all and end-all for the Aussie arm of General Motors.

Bernhard, who has been in the top job at Holden for about 15 months, made it clear that the brand is moving away from the plan of previous chief, Gerry Dorizas, to be the number one brand in the country by 2020.

Considering that Toyota is outselling Holden by a margin of roughly two to one, and there are brands like Hyundai and Mazda already in front of Holden, the move away from aiming to sell big volume at all costs is an important one.

Bernhard said that the brand made about $55 million profit (or $40m after tax) on its imported models, while locally-produced models made a loss.

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“It’s very clear that Holden makes money on our imported vehicle portfolio and that we have a bright future as a national sales company and full-line importer. I would like to stress though that our manufacturing colleagues should be highly commended. Right now the men and women in our plants are building the best-quality cars and engines they have ever built.

“We all know that Holden’s operations and business will continue to evolve, but we also know we face challenges in the near term – and I’m sure you’ve all seen the April sales results,” Bernhard said, referring to the fact Holden was beaten by Ford in the new-car sales race last month for the first time since 1999.

“We’re not going to sacrifice our sustainable future to blindly chase market share – and what won’t change is our commitment to our customers and returning Holden to greatness,” he said.

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It is clear, though, that sales are an important part of any business, and Holden director of communications, Sean Poppitt, made it clear that the company expects higher sales than it has been seeing in 2016.

“We’re certainly looking to recover some ground in terms of sales – we’re definitely not happy with where we ended up in April, and in the quarter. We’re working overtime to recover that,” Poppitt said.

“But we’re not going to blindly chase volume at all costs – it’s got to be, as Mark said, a balance between that profitability and the right market share, so that’s exactly what we’re working to.”

So if it is about finding the right balance between profit and product, is it possible that Ford will outsell Holden again in the near future? According to Bernhard, the Lion brand isn’t looking too closely at the Blue Oval’s one-month sales jump.

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“We’re not going into just looking at where Ford’s results are – we’re looking at where our results are, and we’ll stay focused on that,” Bernhard said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do around making sure we’re treating the customers the right way, rejuvenating the brand, and launching all those new products,” he said of the brand’s publicised plan to introduce 24 new models by the end of 2020.

“We’re absolutely doing those things for the long term, and at the same time we will be chasing sales as hard as we can in May and again in June.”

Holden announced a $128.2m profit after tax for the 2015 financial year.




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