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by James Ward

Change is always hard, but it is made harder when the whole country is watching.

Speaking with CarAdvice last night, Holden managing director Mark Bernhard said that the cessation of vehicle and engine production from October 2016, and the transition of the brand from manufacturer to importer, is the greatest challenge faced by the Lion in its 160-year history.

“Our challenge is to redefine what Holden means in Australia and recapture our relevance”, he said.

Holden’s sales have reduced by over 18 per cent in the past five years as the brand has struggled with older products and the looming closure of Cruze and Commodore manufacturing.

But sales are no longer the most important goal. “We are not blindly chasing market share”, Bernhard said. “Of course we want to make money, but we do that by putting the customer first.”

The change in operational and positioning strategy does make a strong emphasis on people, but not just Holden customers.

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While the human face of the transition – employees directly involved in the plant closure – weigh heavily on the Bernhard, the future of Holden in Australia is assured.

“We have a huge responsibility to our people”, he said. “Treating our employees with dignity and respect is incredibly important.”

Holden will maintain its corporate headquarters in Port Melbourne, supporting a workforce of over 900 people.

This includes 300 engineers and designers who will continue to “test, tune and develop cars for Australian customers.”

Moving forward, Holden is expecting to leverage its position as a full-volume importer and select from the best products offered by GM’s global catalogue.

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The brand has refreshed the iconic Lion logo and is embarking on a new marketing push to “move away from the blokey side” and overtly attract both younger and female buyers.

Holden’s position as a global design hub (the only location outside Detroit capable of designing and constructing a concept car from the ground up) and engineering development center will see the majority of these imported vehicles receive local development tuning.

A large SUV offering, the GMC Acadia, was confirmed by Holden tonight as joining the local lineup in 2018. The car on display was a (hastily) rebadged GMC, in full left-hand-drive North American spec, hinting that there is still plenty of work needed to finalise the vehicle for the Australian market.

Holden has committed to launching 24 new vehicles by 2020, and is well under way, with the new Spark light-car now joined by Colorado, Trailblazer, Astra, Barina and Trax to see out the 2016 year.

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Given the global GM portfolio of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Opel and Vauxhall – what would you like to see on Holden’s 2020 shopping list?




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