Holden chairman and managing director Dave Buttner has stepped away from the job amid a steep decline in sales. Buttner, a former Toyota executive, joined General Motors‘ Australian brand just 16 months ago.
Taking over Buttner’s job in the interim will be director of Holden sales, marketing and aftersales, Kristian Aquilina. A 22- year veteran of the company, Aquilina has held numerous executive roles within Holden and previously served as the managing director of Holden New Zealand from 2015 to mid-2018, before returning to Australia to lead the brand’s marketing efforts.
Holden sales are down 26.6 percent so far this year, significantly outpacing the Australian market slowdown of eight percent. The brand has also experienced its some of its lowest monthly sales results in its 71-year history in 2019. Additionally, September was the first time its monthly sales results have dipped below 3,000 units, with the brand moving just 2,863 vehicles throughout the month.
Buttner joined Holden as it began to focus more on its ute (that’s a pickup truck, for us North Americans) and SUV business, though the shift has been slow to yield any meaningful results. In a statement, Buttner said “Holden’s focus remains on getting onto the consideration list for SUV and LCV buyers in Australia and New Zealand,” and said the brand has “made significant progress in getting the fundamentals right” to enact this change.
“Now is the right time for me to depart the business, with a strong team in place, to be led by Kristian,” he added.
GM’s senior vice president for International Operations, Julian Blissett, also thanked Buttner for his service throughout his brief tenure – which was one of the shortest executive tenures in the company’s history.
“Dave’s experience and professionalism have been significant assets for Holden since his appointment in 2018,” said Blissett. “Not only has he led critical work, he has developed a highly credentialed leadership team, enabling an orderly transition.”
Aquilina will remain focused on Holden’s transition toward utes and SUVs and said his focus will be “on providing continuity around the execution of our plans, ensuring the team at Holden, including dealers and partners, continue to focus on our customers.”