Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of Holden's two new European-sourced models - the Astra and Cascada - the brand's executive director of sales, Peter Keley, suggested that SUVs hold the key to improving sales in Australia.
Keley posited that new products in new segments hold the key to improving the company's sales in Australia. In an overall market that is up 4.2 per cent so far in 2015, Holden is down a whopping 9.6 per cent, and Keley knows where most of the growth is: baby SUVs - cars such as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.
"What’s booming in the Australian car market is fresh new product," he said of the small SUV segment, in which the Trax - which went on sale in August 2013 - plays, despite being larger than some rivals.
"Of course our future product strategy needs to encompass SUVs. The Australian car market is up 4.2 per cent so far this year so far, SUVs are up over 15 per cent," Keley stated.
"So, naturally, Holden will be replacing all of its current SUVs but will be adding additional SUV models to really leverage the strength of that segment to see Holden’s volume and market share grow," he said.
"If you look at the growth in the Australian car market this year so far over last year it’s about 11,000-and-something-odd units. If you look at the cars that were newly launched in 2014 and 2015, and add them together, they come up to about 13,000 or 14,000 cars growth over either their predecessor or if they’re a totally new entrant, over nothing.
"That’s where the growth in the market is coming from," he said. "Holden, unfortunately at this stage of its portfolio development, has zero cars in that category."
Keley suggested that Holden is in a unique position in the market with its SUV models, in that the two biggest sellers historically - the Captiva 5 and Captiva 7, which first went on sale in their current guises in 2006 - are comparatively very old when you look at the rival models in that segment.
"I believe we have the oldest product portfolio in the Australian market. There’s so much choice out there that old cars, or older cars, will always provide a challenge," he said, making reference to the fact there is a continued promotional program for both Captiva models given the age of the vehicles.
"We’ve got a renewal program over the next five years that as good as anyone in the business, and we’ll also fill some existing gaps in the Holden line-up – SUVs will be a special emphasis. That will provide us the ammunition to achieve our goals," Keley added in reference to the fact the company still thinks it can be the number one brand in Australia by 2020.
A baby SUV could play a big part of that growth, and Holden played a crucial role in the development of the Chevrolet Adra concept, pictured below. That concept may well preview a production model to slot below the Trax.
Keley suggested there's no panic just yet about the lack of fresh product in the pipeline - and he offered nothing on when we could expect to see replacements for the Captiva models in Australia.
"As any company does, we set forecasts. Our current sales performance is actually within about 1 per cent of what we’ve been forecasting. These are forecasts we put in place some time ago. So we’re actually effectively achieving where we are with the product portfolio that we have," Keley stated.
"We’re achieving what we’re forecasting. That means that we have a good understanding of our business and where it is, and the roles that our current portfolio plays.
"To the question of number one ... everyone at Holden gets up in the morning to do just one thing, and that’s move us closer to being number one," Keley said.
"Whether or not it’s number one exactly on some sort of calendar, exactly to the date, that’s probably less important to me than being focused on being number one - and that’s what we do every single day."
Holden director of communications, Sean Poppitt, reiterated that the brand has some key models that will help keep things on track to improve the company's market share in Australia in the coming years.