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Colorado ‘number one’ for Holden turnaround

Bronze medal: Holden is tipping its Colorado can end up as a top-three seller in the Australian pick-up market.

Holden counts on Colorado pick-up growth to reverse falling sales in Australia

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Holden logo22 May 2018

GM HOLDEN has identified the Thai-built Colorado utility as its “number one” model line with which to rebuild its business in Australia, following the company’s exit from local manufacturing last October and a poor start to the year that has seen the lion brand’s sales fall 22.5 per cent.
 
This downturn has come as Commodore sales have plummeted 55 per cent to the end of April with the switch from the Australian-built VFII model to the German-built Opel Insignia-based ZB series, as the all-new Mexican-sourced Equinox mid-size SUV has performed below the company’s expectations in such a vital segment and, crucially, as Colorado volume has also dropped off 17 per cent.
 
Colorado’s slip has come as sales growth in the all-important ute segment overall has increased 7.4 per cent this year – due entirely to an ever-increasing appetite for 4x4 pick-ups. 
 
The Holden ute has fallen from fourth in the segment last year behind the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton to fifth as the resurgent (Series III) Nissan Navara rebuilds its presence – and it is in danger of sliding to seventh as upgrades to the Isuzu Ute D-Max and Mazda BT-50 are felt in the marketplace this month.
 
Yet Colorado also still stands as Holden’s top-selling vehicle – ahead of the Astra small car, Commodore, Equinox and other key models such as the (ageing) Captiva seven-seat SUV.
 
In an interview with GoAuto at a Colorado drive event in Victoria this week, GM Holden senior manager of product marketing Andre Scott clearly identified the ute as the most important model for the company going forward.
 
“As part of our strategic focus for the year, we’ve identified a few core car lines to focus on, and Colorado is definitely number one within that,” he said.
 
“So it is a huge focus for us, we have a top three car line strategy for the year, it’s an important car line for us, 100 per cent.”
 
Mr Scott said that given the ZB Commodore and Equinox – the company’s other two pillars – are relatively new models in the Australian market, they will need time to gain a sales foothold and grow volume, so the responsibility for an immediate impact fell to the Colorado.  
 
Holden communications director Anna Betts added that focusing on the growing SUV and light-commercial segments were critical for the company.
 
When asked about growth potential for Colorado, Mr Scott said the ute should be among the top three performers in the segment.
 
“In 2017, (Colorado) finished in fourth place, and I think Colorado deserves to be in the top three,” he said.
 
“That’s the holistic statement in terms of volumes and where we should be in the segment, and there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be in the top three at any given point.”
 
VFACTS sales figures to the end of April show that HiLux (16,230) and Ranger (13,664) remain the dominant forces in the category and that Triton (7870) has pulled well ahead of Colorado, which has recorded 5407 new registrations so far this year. Navara is ahead of the Holden ute with 5699 units year to date, with D-Max (5108) and BT-50 (4424) close behind.
 
Mr Scott said the primary focus would be on increasing 4x4 sales, which is reflected in the current sales split with 4759 4x4s sold compared to 648 4x2s. The most popular current variant is the high-series LTZ dual-cab.
 
He attributed Colorado’s slow start to 2018 to a lack of visibility, with the new Equinox (launched in November) and Commodore (February) getting the lion’s share of marketing attention.
 
However, a big-budget new advertising campaign that started in March – launched with the tagline ‘Not to be outdone’ – is expected to put the Colorado back into the minds of potential buyers.
 
“This campaign is something that is really long-term for us, it’s a platform,” Mr Scott said. “This is a big deal for us in maintaining consistent message and market about what Colorado stands for.”
 
The Colorado TV ad campaign is featured heavily on AFL and NRL broadcasts on both free-to-air and subscription TV, as well as on each Thursday night ‘Footy Show’ program for both codes.
 
Holden is also planning for the 15-second TV ads, based around a man outperforming a goat with the help of his Colorado, to be given a radio equivalent.
 
Additionally, individual dealers will be issuing radio and print campaigns to attract extra attention for the Colorado on a more regional scale.
 
Mr Scott also identified partnerships with the Collingwood Football Club, Surf Life Saving Australia and Victoria Police as areas for extra publicity, with the latter two recently signing a Colorado fleet deal with the company.
 
He said the TV campaign so far “is hitting all the right marks”, with viewers acknowledging the cheeky humour of the ads while leaving with an impression of a vehicle with serious ability. It has also been well received by Holden’s dealer network.
 
The campaign has been spearheaded by ad agency collective The Monkeys, and while not divulging the budget, the company has described it as a “significant investment”.
 
Only time will tell if its investment will pay dividends for the brand.

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