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Holden prepares for new-model influx

Staying put: Holden’s three-door Astra GTC Sport, based on the outgoing platform, will be sold alongside the new five-door Astra in Australia for the time being.

Malibu dropped from line-up as Holden monitors low-volume models

Holden logo10 Nov 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

GM HOLDEN’S transformation from local manufacturer to full-line importer will change up a gear next year as the car-maker focuses on profitable, popular model lines and clears out some of the deadwood in its line-up.

The company’s Australian manufacturing operations will close in late-2017, at about the same time as Japanese car-maker Toyota, with all future Holden models set to be imported from Asia, North American and Europe.

Holden has started to reveal some of its future model plans following the announcement last year that it would launch 24 new or refreshed models in Australia by 2020.

One Holden model that will not be returning is the slow-selling Malibu mid-size sedan. With the next-gen Commodore set to be based on the mid-size Insignia, and the latest version of the Malibu only built in left-hand-drive configuration, there is no future for the US-focused sedan in Australia.

It is unclear if there are any other models or variants that the company is looking to ditch, but Holden executive director of sales Peter Keley said that the car-maker was not interested in clogging its line-up with numerous low-volume models.

“We continue to evaluate our portfolio,” he told GoAuto at the Astra media launch in Canberra this week. “Some vehicles are brought in knowing they are going to be lower volumes. With the three-door Astra, is it large volume? No it’s not. It was about providing an image and providing confidence that Holden was committed to the marketplace (after the closure announcement).

“Malibu was there to also enable us to appeal to some fleets who wanted to purchase all of their cars from one brand. Do we want lots of small volume (models)? No we don’t, it’s inefficient. But if there is a reason for being, we will certainly plan accordingly.

“What’s the model’s role in the portfolio? If it is just creating competition within the portfolio, that is not a good thing. Where there is a distinct reason for being it can make sense, but you don’t want to have a portfolio with lots of cars selling 50 or 60 a month.”

The Malibu has sold in middling numbers since it launched in mid-2013, clocking up 1635 sales in 2014 and 1027 in 2015, well behind the segment-leading Toyota Camry and the Mazda6.

So far this year Holden has found 770 homes for the Malibu, a drop of 7.0 per cent year to date, keeping it well behind the likes of the Subaru Liberty (2937), Hyundai Sonata (1475), Kia Optima (1169) and Ford Mondeo (2507).

Mr Keley said there were a handful of Malibus in Australian dealerships but that stock would run out soon.

Despite the relatively low volumes for the three European models launched last year – the three-door Astra Sport, Cascada convertible and Insignia VXR mid-size sports sedan – Mr Keley stood by the decision to bring the cars into Australia.

“The Astra three-door, Insignia and Cascada were all introduced to do the job of letting people know that Holden is committed to the Australian market and letting people know that we can bring in very exciting products. They weren’t aimed at high volume. They were aimed at reassuring customers that Holden will continue to offer great vehicles.”

Mr Keley confirmed that the Astra three-door and the Cascada will continue to be built in Europe and sold in Australia, despite both sharing the outgoing Astra’s platform.

The Cascada is expected to continue on for now as it has just launched in the United States under GM’s Buick brand where it is enjoying early sales success.

Holden recently confirmed that the next-generation Commodore would be available as both a hatch and wagon imported from Germany and heavily based on the Opel Insignia, following the introduction of the Polish-sourced Astra this month.

The company has also announced the expansion of its SUV line-up with the Equinox mid-sizer and Acadia seven-seater on the way to replace the Captiva 5 and 7 respectively. This follows the October launch of the Colorado 7-replacing Trailblazer and the facelifted Trax that lobs early in 2017.

Other new or refreshed models to launch this year include the Spark micro car, the forthcoming Barina facelift and the popular Colorado pick-up that was updated in September.

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