Holden to feel the pressure from GM head office to boost sales post factory closure.
As the Lion brand prepares to close its Elizabeth production plant in Adelaide on October 20, Holden admits it is looking to move on quickly from the emotional moment as parent company General Motors continues to wait for sales to pickup.
Speaking to media today, GM president, Dan Ammann, said that Holden is now in a position where it needs to move on from its local production past and bring results from a new product strategy: “We are at the point now with the portfolio and with all investment in future technology and so on that there are no more excuses,” he said.
“We are going to get through this important event coming up on the 20th and that will be significant but done. Now it’s back to business with a forward-looking perspective on the future and it’s time to put up the results.”
But asked if GM would be patient, Ammann said “I think we have to be”.
“With everything that we’re bringing into the market – with OnStar, Maven and everything we’re putting around that – the work the team is doing in repositioning the brand and appealing to new customers that are not traditional to the brand, I recognise that that takes time”, he added.
Holden is currently suffering from record low sales as it looks to reposition itself within the market and shift its target market. The delay on GM's global architecture platform has also meant that a potential replacement for the Holden Commodore SS in the form of the Chevrolet Camaro has not been possible.
Holden general manager of communications, Sean Poppitt, told media that the expectation on Holden is unrealistic, and that the brand should no longer be considered number one: “We’re quite often a victim of our own success and are often held to much higher standards than any other brand because we were number one for so long and all of a sudden we’re not. And you can say record low market share but that’s still fourth within the market (now fifth as reported in VFACTS September report).”
Poppitt also echoes the sentiment that Holden missed the boat on an effective model replacement strategy.
“Ford shut their factory and they actually went the other way (increased sales) because the strength they’re building through Ranger and a few other things (such as the US-sourced Mustang),” he said.
But there’s also an assault on the brand from niche rivals such as Isuzu, which beat Holden Colorado sales with its Colorado-based D-Max utility vehicle. However, Poppitt is quick to affirm that Holden is far from in trouble: “That’s just one model, and they throw everything at it.”
“No one underestimates the challenge that’s in front of us. But we take a little bit of umbrage around ‘it’s a disaster thing’”
“It’s not like it’s panic stations,” he said.
With US SUV models, the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Acadia, joining the Holden line-up soon, Ammann said that he is happy with the right-hand drive strategy.
“The whole right-hand drive question (we are) delivering through on that with the new product,” he said.
“When people look at Holden and look back upstream at what General Motors is doing and the position we’re taking, they should feel good about (it).”
Ammann also took a moment to address the 945 workers of the Adelaide Elizabeth production facility who will be leaving the plant for the last time on the October 20 when it shuts.
“We are hugely grateful for all of the effort and energy the employee base has put in over the years at Holden," Ammann said. "We are all incredibly proud of what’s been achieved over that time and, the decision we made, it was made in the best interest of the business for the long term and we are committed to making sure Holden is really successful for the future. And that’s behind everything we’ve done and everything we’re going to do there. We’re really grateful and thankful for all of the work that everyone has put in.”
“Although that chapter of Holden’s history is closing, there’s a whole new chapter that’s opening up. There should be no doubt about our commitment to the market, to the brand and making as much a success in the new world as in the previous incarnation,” he added.