Mark Bernhard is confident in the Lion Brand
Last year was a big year for Holden, both emotionally and financially. Now, the local boss says the shackles have finally been released.
2017 saw the closure of local manufacturing and the termination of 30 dealer franchise agreements, with the brand electing not to renew them beyond December 31, 2017.
The cull from its pool of 230 national dealerships came as a surprise to the industry, but Holden boss, Mark Bernhard, told CarAdvice that it wasn't a sign of competence (or a lack thereof) – it was simply a review of a busy dealership network.
"It was purely a footprint review. It wasn't to do with their level of competence or anything. It was just a footprint review," Bernhard said.
"It obviously varies state by state with economics and things like that. It's funny to think that we're in one big market, but there's lots of small markets around the country."
Holden will co-fund an investment of $150-200 million in the dealer network, designed to transform the purchasing experience and pull focus back to customers. Bernhard is confident this type of investment will help dealers succeed.
"Certainly the enthusiasm is there and the dealers are really buoyant on the product side of the business and efforts made around customers and looking after customers. Along with some of those future technologies coming like OnStar as well."
"The biggest change for us is focus. As we went through a very emotional time with closure last year and as we have got through closure the shackles are now off. This car, the next generation Commodore, it sets us up as this is what we are as a sales, marketing, engineering and design company going forward," Bernhard said.
A product onslaught is underway at Holden, with 24 new models coming by 2020. Part of that new product is the all-new ZB Commodore, which hits showrooms at the end of February.