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Holden quits: We will survive, dealer reassures

Timing: Holden went public with its decision to shutter its factories before it told at least one dealer we spoke to today.

Dealer says the only cars he makes money on are the ones built here

Holden logo11 Dec 2013

By BARRY PARK

HOLDEN salesman Bob Grambau is quickly checking emails as the impact of the news he is hearing slowly sinks in.

“No, I still don’t have it,” he says as he scrolls up and down looking for the news that Holden will stop building cars in Australia from 2017. “They said they’d tell us before it happened.”

Mr Grambau, who has been selling cars all his working life, is the dealer principal at Barry Bourke Holden, a West Gippsland-based dealership with 25 employees, nestled on the rim of the Latrobe Valley.

However, instead of hearing about the decision from General Motors via Holden as he expected, he is hearing it from me, despite almost three quarters of an hour passing since the announcement that the brand would stop making cars in Australia from 2017 became public.

Despite the enormity of Holden’s decision, Mr Grambau said he believed his dealership would ride out any storm the announcement was likely to spark.

“We’re still going to have Holden cars to sell, whether they’re made here or made somewhere else,” he said.

“I guess I feel sorry for the people who currently work in South Australia building them, and I feel sorry for the Holden dealers around the rest of Australia.

“Holden’s market share is well and truly down on where they would like it to be, and that’s nothing to do with the product.

“Holden’s product is fantastic, and it has nothing to do with the product. It’s to do with choices – there are 64 different choices (of marques) for buyers to choose from.

“Each make, say, has five different styles, and all of a sudden there’s too much choice.”

Mr Grambau said the Australian-made Cruze was a strong-selling product for his dealership, while the Commodore was just holding on.

“(Buyer interest in) Cruze is just mighty, and that’s the shame,” he said.

“Maybe what they should have done ... is close down the Commodore, you know, reduce our whole system and just build the Cruze. I don’t know.”

Mr Grambau also said he did not expect buyers would stay out of showrooms after hearing of General Motors’ decision to shutter Holden.

“I think for the interim there may be a little bit of panic about what’s going to happen, but we’re no different to Ford, and you can bet your bottom dollar that within a few weeks Toyota will be saying the same thing.”

Despite his optimism, the future for a number of Holden’s dealers may be grim if the experience at Ford is anything to judge by.

Unnamed Ford dealers have told GoAuto that the car-maker’s dealership network is likely to be hard-hit as the factories as the number of showrooms throughout Australia is consolidated, with the main victims likely to be small country operations, many of them mum-and-dad businesses.

Ford is believed to already be starting talks with the dealers it plans on shuttering about the same time as the last Falcon large car or Territory soft-roader rolls off the Broadmeadows production line in late 2016 – a year before Holden quits.

In the meantime, Mr Grambau said it was a tough gig selling new cars in Australia.

“Our market share is down, the gross down on making money out of new cars – it’s a hard business,” he said.

Mr Grambau said a rumour was going around the industry that Holden was almost losing money on every car imported here.

"All our cars – Captiva, Barina – they lose dough on them,” he said. “We’ve got a greenhouse gas car here as in an electric car, the Volt, but it costs 60 grand.

“You can’t sell them. If the car came back to, say, 45 grand, we’ll sell more cars.

“The problem is that Holden can’t even reduce it to that, they’d just lose too much money if they did that, it’s just not viable.

“The only cars we make money out of at the moment are the cars made here – the Commodore, and the Cruze.

“All the imports are costing them money.”

Mr Grambau said Holden managing director Mike Devereux had been invited to the Victorian Holden dealer group function next weekend, but given the enormity of today’s announcement, he expected the car-maker’s boss to be elsewhere.

“It’s going to be an interesting night,” he said.

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