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Holden chief plays down Inchcape takeover rumours

Nothing to see: GM Holden chairman Dave Buttner has claimed no knowledge of a potential takeover by independent distributor Inchcape.

GM Holden claims no knowledge of any planned distribution takeover by Inchcape

Holden logo22 Feb 2019

GM HOLDEN chairman and managing director Dave Buttner has played down reports that General Motors is looking to hand over importation and distribution of the Australian brand to UK-headquartered Inchcape, saying he had not been involved in any discussions on the matter.
 
However, the Holden chief was less emphatic about the future of models such as Commodore and Astra, which are part of the Opel stable now owned by PSA Group – the French car-maker that uses Inchcape in Australia to handle its Peugeot and Citroen brands – and said he did not want to add further to the “scuttlebutt”.
 
Inchcape Australia is also responsible for Subaru distribution in Australia. 
 
Responding to questions about the rumoured takeover at a media event at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria this week, Mr Buttner said: “There’s been no discussions with me, with Inchcape, we’re just moving on to grow the brand.
 
“To the best of my knowledge, there’s been no discussions that have transpired. And I keep very close to GM and speak to them on a regular basis, and I’ve got their absolutely outstanding support.”
 
Mr Buttner stressed that Holden has the complete backing of GM to succeed in Australia, with Holden sourcing the majority of its line-up – including its entire SUV and light-commercial vehicle portfolio – from GM’s global stable, as opposed to the PSA Group products. 
 
When asked about whether the takeover could be of products not directly under the GM umbrella, Mr Buttner said: “I’m talking generally about GM support. 
 
“So the product we get out of Opel is still under the umbrella of GM anyway in terms of who we source through,” he said. “The ownership might be different but the product is still there.
 
“There’s no point in me adding further to the scuttlebutt. I just want to get on with the job and those sort of distractions don’t do anything to build the confidence inside Holden, the confidence of dealers, and so much of this industry is going to be about being confident – confident in the brand you represent, confident in the people that work for that brand.
 
“We’ve just got to get on with the job.”
 
Mr Buttner said he was not aware of the contractual details between GM and Opel on how much longer Holden has guaranteed supply of the Astra and Commodore, saying only that Holden has “sighting on product into the future”.
 
“I’m not privy to the contractual agreements between PSA and GM. All I know is we’re looking at the future product and we’ll set our plan of record, and we still have sighting into the future,” he said.
 
He added that given that passenger cars still make up 35 per cent of the new-vehicle market, Holden will continue to play in the marketplace so long as there is still opportunity.
 
When asked whether there is an expiry date on the contract between GM and Opel, Mr Buttner said that would be “a discussion between GM and Opel”.
 
Despite Australia being the only right-hand-drive market of significance in GM’s umbrella, Mr Buttner stressed that the American auto giant would always support Holden – as long as the return on investment was there.
 
“We have absolute commitment from GM to support and supply right-hand-drive product for the marketplace. I think that’s evidenced by the Acadia, by the Equinox, but of course we have to sell the product,” he said. 
 
“We have to get the share and the volume we need and we have to give GM a return on investment to expand the capex (capital expenditure) they need to develop exclusively for right-hand drive. 
 
“But from the due diligence I did before I joined, from what I’ve seen in the six months since I joined, that commitment is there. There’s been no resigning on commitment whatsoever.”

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