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Asia "not an issue", says Holden

Made in South Korea: Holden's Daewoo Lacetti-based JF Viva hatch (above) and the Kalos-based TK Barina sedan (below).

Holden attacks what it says is a media focus on the Korean source of its small cars

Holden logo15 Dec 2005

A FIRED-UP Holden boss Denny Mooney has hit out at what he claims is the media’s preoccupation with the country of origin of its new small cars.

Speaking at a Christmas address in Sydney last week, the Holden chairman and managing director said he was "sensitive" to what is perceived within Holden as a media focus on the fact that its new Barina and Viva small cars are manufactured in South Korea.

"This is a little disconcerting to me because it’s very important to us that our brand remains strong for the right reasons," he said.

Mr Mooney made no apologies for the fact that, following the disappearance of Opel’s Zafira people-mover from Holden’s range, Vectra’s imminent demise will leave the AH Astra as the lion brand’s only European-built model.

"How many Vectras did we sell last year? (This year) we had the Tigra and the new Barina and the Viva, the Astra coupe, the (Astra) wagon... We’re proud of that small-car line-up, and they’re doing very well.

 center image"The upper-medium segment is down this year, but we’ve picked up a lot in the small-car market and we feel very, very good. Those cars are great value. Ultimately, the sales will speak for themselves.

"We’re over here in Asia-Pacific and we’re going to probably look at more Asia-Pacifi csourced vehicles over time. It just makes sense." Mr Mooney said there would be more regionally-sourced models to come from Holden but he would not reveal details, and drew similarities between global vehicle manufacturing practices and Holden-modified Daewoo designs.

Asked if Holden had plans to cease sourcing Opel-designed vehicles, he said: "No, not at this time". He added that "European" (and Japanese) product was no longer being designed and built in their home nation/s, but in other parts of the world.

"It used to be all the Japanese cars were designed in Japan. That's not the case anymore. They have tech centres now in North America. They're building them in Europe.

"Where a car is designed and where it’s built is becoming less and less relevant," he said. "The customer doesn’t know, doesn’t care. It’s all internal to the company to try to optimise your overall business at the end of the day." Mr Mooney emphasised Holden’s engineering input into Daewoo-sourced models and admitted that producing quality vehicles was expensive, but stressed the small-car market’s preference for value rather than "premium" engineering.

Earlier this year, he played down the results of a JD Power and Associates quality survey in the United States that ranked in last place a Suzuki-branded version of the Daewoo-sourced Viva.

"You have got to get the fundamental engineering foundation right and you can do anything," he said last week. "Then there are things that do take more money. You have got to put premium material in. There is a lot of things you can do, some of which take money.

"When you look at any given segment you have got to decide: what am I trying to do in that segment? Because I can't be all things to all people. Those are product and business decisions we make every day. We do what we think is right for our business.

"I’m proud because I think we will be able to infl uence these products where in many cases other manufacturers just take what you get. But I like the fact that we have a better chance of tailoring for what we want in our market.

"The difficulty I have with this conversation is ... what's a European product? The Epsilons that we sell in Europe, a lot of it is designed in North America. Some of the small Barina-sized, Corsa-sized (car) components are designed in Brazil, by the way.

"You don't know that and the customer doesn't know that."

What the Holden chief said:

"Just a reminder - seven out of 10 cars in this market are imported, 100 per cent imports. What's interesting, when I read the reviews on their products, I never see anybody write about where they come from.

"By the way, most of the Japanese cars - I wouldn't say most, but many of the Japanese cars - don't come from Japan. They can come from Thailand.

"We have European manufacturers that are exporting out of China today. Japanese manufacturers are exporting out of China today. But it's not that big a deal, I guess.

"Anyway, as you can tell, I get a little bit sensitive sometimes at where we get highlighted, and what really concerns me is ... we do have the highest employment level, we do build the most vehicles, we probably provide the most jobs, if you look at the infrastructure, the dealers, look at our whole brand.

"First of all, great product but also, you know, we really are the local manufacturer. Despite what you read. I always believe everything I read, but like I said, I wanted to get some things off my chest."

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