It would be fair to say, Holden’s drive towards 2020 isn't proceeding as well as the brand would have expected.
Despite what seemed to be a detailed plan to transition from local manufacturer to importer, Holden is finding the relentless competition from Korea and Japan unplayable.
Fresh metal hasn’t lit the spark to get buyers into dealerships. This is surprising, the new Astra, Equinox and Commodore are all strong offerings in isolation, but they are not cutting through.
As I see it, Holden always seem to be playing off the back foot. Holden’s style is far too reactive for today’s market.
Nothing proves the point better than the Equinox, it was needed in Holden showrooms five years ago. There’s fashionably late, then there’s the Equinox.
If you need another example, look no further than Holden’s recent move to a five-year warranty. A reactionary step if ever there was one. Another move needed five years ago.
Now I like Holden’s new range. It’s diverse in a way we haven’t seen before. It’s no longer all about one model, which has proved to be a double-edged sword.
Losing the locally made Commodore also meant Holden lost its hero car. A gap that is yet to be filled.
Knowing how much of its history was tied up in large six and eight-cylinder, rear wheel drive cars, why on earth was another hero not getting its cape pressed to fill the void?
Fans of Holden’s icon, and of the brand in general, are still waiting. That word reactive just won't go away.
Even Ford was clever enough to insert the Mustang into the local range. Knowing Ford, this was probably done by a junior intern or completely by accident.
Ford has also pivoted towards its ute range. The new Ranger Raptor will probably supersede the Mustang and become the brand’s flag bearer.
At some point, the corporate high-flyers will need to flick the switch and get Holden on the proactive side of the ledger.
Perhaps the recent appointment of industry veteran Dave Buttner to the role of Chairman and Managing Director of GM Holden will signal the turn of the tide.
This appointment breaks the mould by bringing in an outsider, someone who hasn’t fallen into Holden’s top job from the inner sanctum of GM.
Mr Buttner has a decorated and lengthy resume that includes the position of President of Toyota Motor Corporation in Australia from May 2014 to December 2017.
Throughout his 30 years at Toyota, Mr Buttner filled roles in manufacturing, sales and marketing, corporate affairs and product planning and development.
In fairness, Toyota has a well-established brand identity. It has a reputation that resonates with buyers, even non-car people get what Toyota is all about. Whereas Holden is often at the mercy of suits in Detroit.
The heavies at head office haven’t always given Holden a fair shake. GM HQ seems to have an endless line of executives who say the right things, but neglect the delivery.
At Holden, Mr Buttner is going to need to find and sell Holden’s narrative, whatever that may be. Something compelling is needed. This is why he’ll get paid the big bucks.
Holden does need to do things differently. Where are the big ideas? Where is the next flagship? Where are the exciting, trailblazing initiatives? All questions that need answering.
The good news for Holden fans is a new boss might encourage a fresh approach. Resurrecting Holden won't be quick or easy, but the brand needs to start playing off the front foot, an endeavour in which we wish Mr Buttner and his team every success.
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