Sceptically viewed as a way of smoothing over some of the hurt of the brand's decision to cease local manufacturing in 2017, yesterday's announcement that the Astra GTC and VXR, Insignia VXR and Cascada convertible will be sold here in 2015 is the first step in a post-local production plan for the brand, according to recently appointed Holden chairman and managing director Gerry Dorizas.
"This an important first step in the future of Holden - one of many more to come", Dorizas said.
According to Dorizas, Holden plans to increase its market share and give its customers more variety - and General Motors executive vice president and president of GM International Operations (GMIO) Stefan Jacoby indicated the three new models announced this week were only the start of the company's plans for Australia.
"We believe we can gain market share and market position," Jacoby said. “We are here from having a brand strategy over the last 10 years where we’ve lost market share."
Jacoby all-but confirmed more Opel cars will be sold in Australia as Holdens.
"This is part of the surprises that will come ahead," Jacoby said. "We are not here to talk about any other vehicles. But please stay tuned, more will come soon."
Dorizas also hinted at further product expansion plans.
"As we continue to build a bright future for Holden, we will continue to offer Australian and New Zealand customers the best possible products across our global operations," he said.
Dorizas made the extraordinary claim in early April that the company aims to overtake Toyota as the number one car company in Australia by 2020, a sentiment he echoed at yesterday's announcement.
CarAdvice has been informed that the brand will trickle new models into the line-up over the coming months and years, and we wouldn't be alone in expecting that more models from the Vauxhall/Opel stable will be sold here.
If Holden is serious about being number one by 2020, it will need to expand its product portfolio. In comparison with Toyota, Holden currently has seven passenger cars on its books: Barina Spark, Barina, Cruze, Volt, Malibu, Commodore and Caprice; while the Japanese maker has nine: Yaris, Prius C, Corolla, Rukus, Prius, Prius V, Camry, Aurion, 86). The move to add the Insignia VXR, Astra GTC and VXR and Cascada convertible will put Holden ahead in this regard.
While the Cascada was never sold in Australia, the Astra and Insignia models did make their way here under Opel, though neither achieved eye-opening levels of sales. It is expected that under Holden's guidance, though, those two models' fortunes will improve - as a company source told CarAdvice, it's not just the badge, but the dealer network, the history and the familiarity of the Holden brand that will have the most positive impact.
When it comes to the fastest-growing segment in Australia, the SUV class, Holden has four SUV models: Trax, Captiva 5, Captiva 7, Colorado 7; while Toyota has five: RAV4, FJ Cruiser, Kluger, Prado, LandCruiser 200 Series - not to mention the hardcore 70 Series LandCruiser four-wheel-drive.
Commercial vehicles is where Holden stands to make up a lot of ground. General Motors has a number of offerings that would slot in to its line-up with little fuss, such as the small Combo van which was sold by Holden in its previous iteration, the all-new mid-size Vivaro van (pictured above) that would target the Toyota HiAce and large Movano van that competes with the Renault Master and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. There's still a question over what Holden will do when the Commodore Ute is phased out of production, too - perhaps a step up in size to a US-sourced pick-up truck could on the cards.
There's no official word on which models will be sold here, with the company insisting it will "look at the global product portfolio" and decide which cars, vans, utes or SUVs, if any, may be suitable for the Australian market.
However, expect the Zafira Tourer seven-seat people-mover (pictured below) to be one such car brought in to fill a gap in the brand's line-up. It is all-but certain that the new-generation Astra small hatch range will be sold alongside the future Cruze sedan as part of a two-prong small car strategy, while other models like the next-generation Camaro and style-conscious Opel Adam city car may also be on the short-list.
No matter which models end up coming, Holden says it wants to ensure the cars will "speak with an Australian accent".
Jacoby indicated that keeping the Lang Lang proving ground - a move that will ensure at least some of the 2900 workers due to lose their jobs when manufacturing ceases by the end of 2017 - is key to ensuring the brand is offering cars tuned for Australian needs.
"With that kind of thought that we have in our strategy, we came up with we want to maintain our engineering and proving ground capabilities in Australia.
“Over the last couple of months we have developed our strategy for Australia, and we see great opportunities within the global product program which we have in mind for Australia,” Jacoby said of the brand's plans following the announcement it will shut down its car and engine building facilities.
Jacoby hit out at suggestions the move to retain some engineering footprint in Australia was merely a token gesture.
"We maintain [Holden is] a strong pillar of [General Motors'] strategy here and our capabilities here – it’s not a PR move," he said.