Mark Bernhard was a fairly clear choice when seeking out a new chairman for Holden. Bernhard began his General Motors career with Holden in 1986 and, from there, has held senior financial roles throughout GM over 29 years.
Before taking charge of Holden officially, Bernhard was named CFO for the GM China Group in 2005. He returned to Australia briefly in 2007 as CFO and Executive Director of Finance for GM Holden, as the global financial crisis sunk in.
Bernhard takes the reins of a brand undergoing swooping changes, as public opinion hits an all time low, and uncertainty outweighs optimism. In his official statement, Bernhard said the following on returning to Holden:
Holden has a bright future and it’s an honour to be able to lead the talented and passionate team here.
Having started my career with Holden, I understand the strength of the brand and its importance to Australia and our customers. My job is to build on that for future generations.
Our company is going through a challenging transition to a national sales company and I am determined we will treat our people with the respect and dignity they deserve. But we must also look forward and Holden’s future success will be built on three pillars: brand, product and customer experience.
Re-establishing Holden as Australia’s favourite car brand means a total focus on our customers, redefining the Holden brand and launching 24 world-class vehicles by 2020. We are taking the long view, this is not going to happen overnight. It is going to be challenging and we have plenty of hard work ahead but I’m energized by our potential.
Our mission is to build a future that honors our brand, our people and our heritage, with the best vehicles from across the General Motors world. We have the right plans and the right people to make Holden a success story for many years to come.
Endearing words for a position not many inside GM would want to own up to right now.
Bernhard will oversee the brand’s transformation from a manufacturer to a national sales brand, where much of Holden’s future success will ride on the inbound 24 vehicles by 2020. That includes a new “true sports car,” as defined by Holden recently, to replace the rear-wheel drive VF Commodore as the nameplate transitions presumably to a front-wheel drive architecture.
Bernhard will be the first Australian to hold the position in 25 years.