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Penske signs up Crennan

New role: John Crennan has joined Penske Corporation as a consultant in Australia where the American company is rapidly expanding its operations.

Former HSV boss John Crennan becomes Penske’s go-to man in Australian roll out

17 Sep 2014

FORMER Holden Special Vehicles managing director and Nissan Motorsport chief executive John Crennan has signed on with American automotive giant Penske Corporation as an advisor charged with helping to guide the expansion of Penske's automotive empire Down Under.

Melbourne-based Mr Crennan, who started his career with Holden in 1962, quit his management role with Todd and Rick Kelly’s Nissan V8 Supercar outfit last month to take on the new consulting job at the behest of American motor racing and automotive industry billionaire Roger Penske.

His new role with Penske was announced this week as the American corporation revealed it had not only sealed a partnership deal with Dick Johnson Racing in Australia’s V8 Supercars but also acquired diesel engine importer and distributor MTU Detroit Diesel Australia (see separate story).

Mr Crennan told GoAuto today that he was “chuffed” with his new job, which would involve marketing and strategic planning for new Penske ventures in Australia on a project-by-project basis for “a pretty big expansion program”.

He said the big winner in Penske’s Australian aspirations would be the Australian automotive industry.

“The mere fact that Roger has determined that this market is important to him, I think is just one hell of a confidence boost for the industry,” he said.

Although Penske Automotive controls one of the world’s largest motor vehicle dealership groups, with 327 dealerships covering 42 brands, Mr Crennan said expansion into car retailing in Australia had yet to be decided.

80 center image Left: Penske Corporation chairman Roger Penske.

“All of that has not been clearly defined,” he said. “My next three months will be pretty busy on commercial stuff and talking to their (Penske’s) Australian counterparts of their business partners over there (in the United States).” The “commercial stuff” will include working on developing commercial partnerships for the new-look DJR Team Penske V8 Supercar team, as he had done at both Holden Racing Team and Nissan Motorsport.

Mr Crennan said Penske had its own successful model for leveraging its various businesses with its racing teams, and his job would be to apply those models in Australia.

Apart from that, he would provide strategic planning for possible new business ventures.

“It is just helping him (Mr Penske) on marketing things on a project basis, and also acting for them on any other projects that may come up for which they need some local knowledge,” he said.

With his experience at Holden, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) and their related racing arm, Holden Racing Team (HRT), Mr Crennan is well placed to advise Penske on similar matters in Australia.

Mr Crennan was instrumental in setting up HSV and HRT with British racing driver and entrepreneur Tom Walkinshaw in 1988 after the collapse of Holden’s relationship with Peter Brock and his Holden Dealer Team.

Mr Crennan said he had been speaking with the Penske organisation for about four months, but had only started officially with the organisation this week.

In 2012, Mr Crennan met with Mr Penske in America to brief him on the potential for a “Chevrolet Special Vehicles” operation in North America, based on the HSV model in Australia.

The briefing was given not only to Mr Penske but also rival American motor racing and motor dealer operator Rick Hendrick at the request of former Holden managing director and now General Motors North America president Mark Reuss, who was familiar with the HSV success story.

Asked if a special vehicles operation was on the agenda at Penske, Mr Crennan said: “It certainly has not been discussed at this stage, no.” Mr Crennan said the new role with Penske came up at a time when he was looking to move from a management job – with Nissan Motorsport – into a more strategic planning role.

He said it had been important to him to work with Todd and Rick Kelly to ease himself out of the Nissan Motorsport CEO role to avoid any issues.

“I had my cards on the table with them all the way because, to me, the value of that relationship and our on-going friendship was worth more to me than anything else,” he said.

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