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GM committed to Holden

Talk the talk: New Holden boss Dave Buttner speaking with journalists at Melbourne City Holden yesterday.

Buttner says future product portfolio still to be determined but Holden brands stays

2 Aug 2018

GM HOLDEN chairman and managing director Dave Buttner says parent company General Motors is committed to maintaining the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand.
 
Mr Buttner, who started his tenure at Holden this week after a seven-month break following his retirement as Toyota Australia president in December last year, was addressing journalists yesterday at Melbourne City Holden.
 
When asked if there were plans to phase out the Holden brand in favour of Chevrolet in Australia, Mr Buttner said he was unaware of any such plans.
 
“Not to my knowledge,” he said. “And it is not on my horizon. I know there has been a lot of speculation, but honestly there is no discussion about rebadging Holden to Chevrolet. The Holden brand has a place in the Australian marketplace, our job is to grow it.”
 
Mr Buttner added that in making his decision to take the top job at Holden, he had to be certain that GM was committed to the brand.
 
“I spoke to a  lot of people, because it was very important in my mind as I made this significant career move, that I could feel that support from the parent. And I felt that support. Do they want a return on their investment? Of course they do, they are a business.”
 
When asked about sourcing of future product following GM’s decision to sell its European Opel and Vauxhall brands to PSA, bringing into question the future of models such as the Euro-built Commodore and Astra, Mr Buttner said he was unable to comment in future product sourcing.
 
However, he said GM’s decision to add right-hand-drive production to some of its key US-market models showed that it was committed to the Australian market.
 
“What I can say and the thing that excited me about future product potential – I am aware of all of the issues in terms of Opel and … the source of right-hand-drive vehicles. So commitment to me is when somebody says, ‘we will develop a product exclusively for your market’. 
 
“So at the moment it is a left-hand-drive product. The capex (capital expenditure) is spent to build the car to service a right-hand-drive market. And that was very much the case with Equinox and very much the case with Acadia. Our job is to sell the product. That is what then opens the door to similar investments down the track.”
 
He added that sourcing for some future Holden product was not yet determined and said that taking product from GM’s various global manufacturing bases would depend on a number of factors, including tariffs.
 
When asked about the potential for iconic American models such as the Camaro coupe – which is about to be imported and converted to RHD by HSV in Melbourne – and the forthcoming new-generation Corvette sportscar, Mr Buttner said Holden’s product planning team had to “look at what excites Australian consumers”.
 
“And there is certainly excitement in that segment. And I can’t say anything but stay tuned.”
 
Discussing the new-generation ZB Commodore – the first imported, front/all-wheel-drive car to wear the badge in its 40-year history – Mr Buttner said the model still had a big part to play in Holden’s line-up.
 
“I think while there has been the segment shift, there is still a passenger-car segment. And with the offering that Commodore has now in terms of four cylinder, six cylinder, turbo and diesel, I would like to think there is still a strong role for that product to play in the marketplace. 
 
“If you look at the offerings now, whether it be for fleet or police or whatever, there is a choice beyond a large six cylinder or a large V8. So there is product to meet the change in environmental needs, to give you better fuel consumption a better return on investment as a consumer.”
 
Mr Buttner said following the closure of Holden’s manufacturing plant in October last year, the company had to ensure it was offering product that consumers wanted. 
 
“We have got to make sure that we are providing the right product to meet the needs of the market. And the changing dynamics of the market, the changing segmentation, I think with Equinox and Acadia, we have products in those burgeoning SUV markets. We have to make sure people know about it.”
 
He acknowledged that Holden could be selling more examples of the Equinox mid-size SUV, given it is sitting in 10th place in what is now the biggest single market segment.
 
“I think the biggest opportunity at the moment is we honestly need to land Equinox. It is a really good vehicle. My wife got an Equinox on the weekend and she was very impressed.”

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