GM Holden today announced that expatriate Aussie, and former Holden company executive, Mark Bernhard is to return to Australia to head up the company as Chairman and Managing Director.
He will assume the role “early in the third quarter of this year”, likely July.
A graduate of Monash and Deakin Universities, and a former Chief Financial Officer at Holden, his appointment into the big chair is the first for an Australian in 25 years.
Not since John Bagshaw in 1990 has Holden had an Australian chief executive.
His appointment was announced in Sydney by GM Executive Vice-President and President of GM International, Stefan Jacoby.
Mr Bernhard began his career at Holden in 1986, taking a number of finance roles before pursuing other opportunities across GM’s global operations. He returned to Holden as CFO in 2007, steering the company through the GFC.
He will return to Holden from his current position as Vice-President and CFO of Shanghai GM.
Speaking to the media today, Mr Jacoby said that Mr Bernhard is “the right person to lead GM Holden.
“Mark’s knowledge of GM Holden, our region and GM’s global operations will serve him well in his new role,” he said.
“He will champion the ongoing transition of GM Holden to a national sales company and the repositioning of the Holden brand for long-term growth and profitability.”
“Mark brings knowledge about Holden to the job, but also knowledge of GM’s global operation.”
“We understand the challenges of this market here, and we want to win with Holden here,” Mr Jacoby said.
Mr Bernhard takes up the role vacated by former MD Gerry Dorizas, who left Holden suddenly at the end of October after just six months in the job, and succeeds Interim Managing Director and CFO Jeff Rolfs.
Jeff Rolfs is to remain at Holden as CFO.
New Models: 24 by 2020
Mr Jacoby also announced a major “new vehicle onslaught” for Holden over the next five years, with 24 new vehicle launches and 36 new powertrain combinations to be released.
“GM is investing significantly to broaden the Holden product portfolio and deliver world-class vehicles,” Mr Jacoby said.
Of most interest among these is the announcement that, among these new releases, will be “Holden’s next generation large car carrying the Commodore nameplate”.
"Holden is Commodore and Commodore is Holden," he said.
This is in addition to the Insignia, which is also to be released here with a Holden badge.
Also of interest, and likely to be the Camaro you would have to think (despite reports circulating scotching it from right-hand-drive markets), is that Holden will have “a true sports car in its future product portfolio”.
And, putting paid to any concerns of an early exit for its Australian manufacturing operation, Mr Jacoby confirmed that “we are committed to maintain our manufacturing here until the end of 2017”.
He also said there was “no intention, no intention to reduce the operation of the (Holden) design centre”, and that “nothing has changed as to its intentions with the engineering centre at the Lang Lang Proving Ground”.
“Holden is an iconic Australian brand, we have the aspiration to be number one,” Mr Jacoby said.