Holden: The Toughest Time For The Brand Is Now7
Holden is in a strange game of limbo currently. The brand is beginning to receive the newest additions to its lineup via its new strategic partner, Opel. At the same time, Holden is trying to maintain relevance with its historic Commodore nameplate and other Australian-built vehicles. This makes for tough times to define what the brand is, and where it’s headed in the future.
Peter Keley, Holden executive director of sales, acknowledges these strange times and calls the coming months the toughest period the brand will see. Manufacturing will begin to slow immensely as the brand winds down production further to shut its doors by the end of 2017, and production as already begun its scaling back process.
Contrary to what you may believe, Keley forecasts a sales boost towards the end of local manufacturing as buyers scoop up the final iterations of its locally built vehicles, particularly the VF Commodore. In maintaining relevance of its products, a plethora of special edition vehicles have been introduced.
Just the VF Commodore alone has seen the Sandman, International, Collingwood, Craig Lowndes, Lightning and Storm special editions to rally buyers into dealerships, and it sounds like more will be on the way.
“It’s reasonably well known that there will be another upgrade of Commodore,” Keley said. “Once you get into that model, people start to feel as though they’re buying into that last Commodore. I think after that, the sales will be quite steady,” Keley told Drive.
Keley is referring to the 2016 Holden Commodore Series II, which will be the last locally-developed, locally-manufactured Commodore. The 2016 Commodore Series II will see a host of minor upgrades, and possibly the addition of the 6.2-liter LS3 V8.
Despite the most recent poor sales figures (Commodore sales fell to sixth place at 2,043 vehicles sold) Keley says the brand is on target for where they want to be during the turbulent times, within 1 to 2 percent of company targets. He mentions increased confidence internally about the direction Holden is headed in the future, and is confident the brand will have no problem selling the last batch of locally-manufactured cars.
Keley reflects the type of tone needed internally inside Holden. Appreciative of the brand’s legacy, but confident in where the roaring line points its compass in the future. Brighter days are ahead for the brand, despite the bitter taste left by the lack of locally produced vehicles.
“I don’t think people want us to meekly go away into the sunset, because that does a disservice to the legacy of a lot of hard work and a lot of talented people.”
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If I were in Holden product development, I’d have a CTS in a million pieces on the CAD table – and a matching one in the lab being reassembled into something you could truly call a Holden.
And if anyone managed to stop me from tooling that, I’d quit. Because frankly if Holden isn’t working on a Plan B for when Opelcatastrophe flops – they’re doomed anyways.
Some of us here in OZ are wondering since it was announced that GM/Holden will be stockpiling the VF/ZETA to be available until 2019 if that is actually the gamble. Try Opel imports for 24 months and if sales fail badly enough either switch to the CTS and or reopen the plant at reduced cost/capacity. The one thing i do know for certain though is the fact we are being treated with the mentality of “If we GM make it you Aussies will buy it” wont work. We here in Australia just like you in America are a proud nation and will not have anything dictated to us and certainly wont purchase a car not worthy of the brands heritage. At least the CTS could be turned into something (styling & handling) similar to what we want here as car enthusiasts and consumers.
Christopher makes a good point. Problem is though engineering is being scaled back to just do engineering adjustments on the opels to make them more Aussie road friendly. Can’t produce any new cars of our own and manufacture elsewhere (Like Ford Australia who are responsible for Ranger and Everest but manufactured in Thailand). Judging by social media, no one gives a crap about the Opels and everyone is pointing out that the Isignia is again not worth the money (despite being $5k cheaper than when Opel sold it locally) when you can get a Commodore.
Holden deserves a shot at the Alpha platform (heck, look what they did with the Omega platform). They gave us the Zeta which kept GM performance afloat outside of the Corvette. The problem here in the states is that no one cares to identify with where their cars originate from. I’m talking to you Gen 5 Camaro and previous gen CTS owners cause if you love your cars you have Holden to thank. And no, I have not forgotten about the G8 and SS, those being just rebadged Commodores (I own a G8).
I just wanted to say thank you Jon R, we here in Australia love a good car and not some FWD imported mundane ride. Heck you see what you call soccer mums driving the SS commodore here in rather decent numbers dropping the kids to school and getting the groceries then dad taking it for a drive on the weekend. Sales numbers have only fallen as GM failed to realize the impact of making Holden an imported brand only.
Holden is bit of a one trick pony – Commodore. Besides that nameplate, the other sectors are not really firing. Isuzu is touching up Holdens commercial/SUV sales and the remainder has been poorly accepted due to the Daewoo and other brand image factors i.e. Craptiva.
It will take lots of money and brand rebuilding to turn this ship around. However, GM being GM has the global resources and now better product to rebuild the business in Oz.
Yes, in summary, once the Australian built Commodore ends production, shortly thereafter so will Holden end. Long live every other progressive brand. Shame General Motors for ending Australian Holden production and outsourcing manufacturing to a workforce of exploited underpaid humans elsewhere in the world. No thanks, am not buying into that way of thinking. Shame GM, shame. Next car in the driveway will be something fully electric from a forward thinking manufacturer such as Tesla.