HSV's 2018 vehicle line-up, beyond the end of Holden's Australian production program, will be more diverse and focussed on attracting new customers - but not at the cost of excitement.
“There’s no guarantees, but [I’m] pretty confident,” Jackson said.
“I think there’s a job to do. We have to transform the business – that’s the reality – because we’ve had a fairly comfortable existence around building effectively, Australian-built, rear-wheel-drive V8s, and that world’s ending. But we always want to deliver aspirational vehicles, that’s what we do well.”
Admitting that broadening HSV’s appeal is crucial to the firm’s future success, Jackson says it’s just as important for the brand to stay on point.
“We need to look at how our customer is changing and moving, and we’ve been really fortunate that there’s still a really strong customer base for our product. But we know there are certain elements within the market that are changing – people are changing, the whole industry is changing, not just the local Australian manufacturing piece – and we need to stay relevant.”
Highlighting the need to “stay true” to key brand values such as having genuine performance, being aspirational, and delivering great value for money, Jackson said, “If we can do that, we’re pretty confident we’ll have a good business.”
Although Jackson wouldn’t be pushed into divulging details about HSV’s post-2017 product range – telling CarAdvice, an announcement in the next couple of months will provide “in reasonable detail… a pretty clear indication of what we’ll be doing” – the operation’s head did make clear what HSV won’t be building.
“A boring product,” Jackson said laughing.
“We won’t do a boring product. If we do a boring product, we’re dead. There’s no reason for us to exist to do boring product.”
“I won’t talk about platforms specifically [namely the next Commodore’s E2XX platform], but what I will say is, we’re down the path on two programs, and certainly by the time we hit 2018, [we’ll] have product in the market place.”
Confident that ‘traditional’ HSV fans will come along for the ride into a new non-Zeta platform-based future, Jackson says there are elements to winning over buyers beyond conventional metrics.
“For a number of years now, internally, we’ve been very specific about not categorising our customer from an age perspective or a particular category-buying perspective. We categorise them by; what’s their attitude?
"Do they want a fun car to drive? Are they passionate about driving? Are they passionate about performance? Do they want a vehicle that delivers a little more in terms of uniqueness and drivability and all those sorts of things? And I think that customer exists in multiple categories, not just in one category.
“Now, I think rather than expecting a customer to come with us, there’s an element of, ‘Yes, come with us’, but also we need to attract new customers to the brand. And that’s going to come by still delivering what traditionally people expect of HSV in existing categories, but [also] in new categories.”
Jackson also has confidence that, even if new customers don’t immediately flock to the brand and long-standing fans don’t initially come along for the ride per se, HSV has the wherewithal and resilience to maintain a presence through any future downturns.
“I think [a] ‘Plan B’ is inherent within Plan A and Plan C and Plan D,” Jackson said.
“As part of that planning, we have a sense of the parameters between what would be really great acceptance, and what would be really poor acceptance.
"To a certain extent, if you look at what we’re delivering this year, it’s been, in many respects, 30 years in the making. So, if we do move into new categories, than we need to be willing to have some patience. So, we need all our plans – our Plan A, our Plan B, our Plan C – to keep us profitable, but [also] to buy us time to help to build the next generation after that, the next generation after that, the next generation after that.
“Let’s say we deliver the product, and it wasn’t accepted fantastically. The key part of our plan is to make sure a less-than-stellar result is still something we can live with and build upon. For whatever reason it doesn’t take off, it can’t be the end of the company. We need a plan that supports one or two misses along the way, otherwise we’re done – like any business.”
What do you think a post-2017 HSV line-up will look like? And is it one you’d buy in to? Let us know in the comments section below.