Holden has been given leave by its Detroit masters to pause production of the imported Commodore and Equinox lines, as it works to move unsold stock already in Australia.
The decision to halt production on two of Holden's most important models comes as new boss Dave Buttner, a respected industry veteran with more than 30 years under his belt, works to reverse the company's sales slide.
VFACTS figures up to the end of September show Holden registrations are down by nearly 17,000 vehicles compared to the same period in 2017, with the bulk of that – almost 10,000 cars – being the new Commodore.
Some of the Commodore's failing can be attributed to a general shift away from large sedan (and sedan-like) models. The Equinox, which arrived in December 2017 to replace the smaller of the Captiva models, has fewer excuses.
Despite the benefit of extended-warranty deals, generous drive-away pricing and significant discounting on demo models, the Equinox nonetheless finished September with just 3621 registrations year-to-date.
That effort makes the Equinox the 11th best-selling model in the medium SUV segment, behind the Ford Escape (3737 registrations) and well away from the CX-5 (20,185), RAV4 (16,918) X-Trail (15,945) and Tucson (15,183). In terms of market share, the Equinox owns just 2.7 per cent, compared to 15.3 for the CX-5.
Whatever Holden thought it was going to accomplish with the Equinox, and with the Commodore – the latter saddled with more derision than the market has seen in decades – Australians have clearly not responded as it would have hoped.
As reported by Wheels Magazine last week, the decision to halt Commodore and Equinox production has been described by the company as standard, sensible business practice.
Speaking with CarAdvice, GM Holden Chairman and Managing Director Dave Buttner, said it's a matter of closing the year as well as can be managed and focusing on the year ahead.
"You've got to make sure you don't have too much stock, and you've got to know the right time to balance your stock," he said.
"We're at the stage now where we've got a lot of stock in the country, and we don't need any more to fulfill our sales plans through the rest of the year. So it's just doing what any well-run business should do: making sure we keep a close eye on our sales stock rundown, that's all."
Buttner said the company is "on target" to return to a good stock level by the end of the year, although he would not confirm just how many vehicles are currently parked and what a good number would be.
"There's very few (model year) '17s left, most of the stuff we've got is model-year '18," he said.
"And then we've got production already in line for our sales plan for the first four months of next year."
Addressing speculation that either model could be killed off entirely, Buttner made clear his efforts have been focused on righting a mismanaged product plan – not flipping the table.
"Anybody who draws that bow is just not understanding how you do business," he said.
"When you've had long lead times, and you have sales plans that have been allowed to become unaligned over a period of time – this is just to make sure we're conducting proven business practices to rightsize the stock for the targets we have for the period going forward."
"I just want to make sure we don't carry over a heap of previous-year-plated cars, that's pretty poor business to allow that to happen," he added.
Regardless of the speculation surrounding this decision, buyers can likely expect an even sharper deal on these two cars over the months ahead.
Medium SUV Sales Year-to-date (end of September)
- Mazda CX-5 – 20,185
- Toyota RAV4 – 16,918
- Nissan X-Trail – 15,945
- Hyundai Tucson – 15,183
- Honda CR-V – 12,586
- Mitsubishi Outlander – 12,310
- Kia Sportage – 10,627
- Subaru Forester – 7,604
- Volkswagen Tiguan – 7,222
- Ford Escape – 3,737
- Holden Equinox – 3,621
- Renault Koleos – 2,379
- Peugeot 3008 – 1,065
- Volkswagen Golf Alltrack – 740
- Suzuki Grand Vitara – 709
- Jeep Cherokee – 450
- Peugeot 5008 – 421
- Skoda Karoq – 263
- MG MG GS – 236
- Haval H6 – 124