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Holden sales set to bounce back

Trax and field: The Trax has been a bright spot for Holden sales this year and the facelifted version (left) will hit showrooms late this year or early 2017.

Product and customer benefit programs are already paying dividends, say Holden execs

11 Aug 2016

GM HOLDEN is blaming a dated model range and the vagaries of fleet-buying habits for its historical-low year-to-date eight per cent market share, but says a new product offensive, fresh customer service initiatives and in-house financial services will reverse the long-term slide.

According to Holden executive director of sales Peter Keley, while the company has suffered a 10.4 per cent volume slide from January to July – Commodore sales fell 7.7 per cent and the Cruze slipped 12.3 per cent – the result is not as alarming as the figures suggest, with key models actually making gains, especially among private buyers.

This includes the Commodore, whose share in the sub-$70,000 large car segment rose nearly four per cent, in a class that has contracted 8.4 per cent year-on-year.

“We’re currently competing in 12 segments of the Australian car market, and in seven of those, year-on-year, we’ve grown market share,” Mr Keley told GoAuto at the MY17 Colorado facelift launch in Queensland this week.

“In the month of July last year, if you just looked at private sales, we were number five in the market in July this year, we’re number three. So while our total share is down year-on-year, that doesn’t mean everything is heading in that direction. We’ve had some wins, we’re growing share with Trax, Captiva, the new Spark, and we’re still growing share with Commodore.

“So the public still sees a reason to buy Holden. Even with Colorado in the 4x4 segment – we’re competing against a lot of all-new entrants, yet our sales in the old Colorado 4x4 are actually up – not by a huge amount, but we’ve been able to hold our position. Which, given the competitiveness of the market place, still shows the strength within the Holden brand.”

Although Mr Keley is pleased that Holden has had some breakthrough with private buyers this year, he believes that the company is only experiencing a temporary lull in fleet customer activity, one that will pass soon, especially as new models in booming segments such as the 4x4 pick-up class come on stream.

 center imageLeft: Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard.

“We’re not moving away from fleet,” he said. It’s about where our (fleet) customers are in their purchase cycles. With Colorado, we’re making some very significant conquests – fleet customers out of other products, who haven’t been buying Colorado. We expect with the MY17 version for that to continue.

“In fact, two weeks ago, we had a very special drive program for some very major fleets – some already in Colorado, some that aren’t in Colorado – so we’re still very focussed in the fleet market. And products like this will definitely see our fleet grow I’d say.”

As outlined earlier, joining the Spark, Colorado, and Trailblazer this year will be the all-new Astra and possibly the facelifted Trax small SUV, while 2017 will be hectic for Holden with the next-generation Opel Insignia-based Commodore stepping in for the existing VF II when local manufacturing of that (and the Caprice long-wheelbase flagship) ends in the fourth quarter.

We also hear that a complete revamp of the Barina light car range and – at last – a medium SUV based on the Astra’s mechanicals might also finally materialise before the beginning of 2018.

Right now, Holden’s car line-up has never been older at any time in the company’s 67-year history, with the Zeta-platform Commodore and the Captiva SUV both hitting 10 years on sale, the Caprice looking pretty much unchanged over nine years, the locally made Cruze seeing seven years and counting, and the Barina light car celebrating half a decade on the market.

At the Colorado launch, Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard detailed what is known as ‘The Holden Transformation’ – a mindset designed to take the focus off the cessation of local manufacturing late next year by putting the emphasis on building the company’s standing in areas of the market where it has trailed competitors such as Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai.

Mr Bernhard talked about transforming the brand and the company and highlighted a renewed focus on customers.

“For the last few years we’ve battled with one of the oldest portfolios in the industry, but that is now changing. We’re launching 24 new models by 2020 and we’re well on the way, with a number of significant launches and announcements over the last year already… the Commodore VF II… and in some ways the all-new Spark could be considered one of the most significant products we’ve launched over the last 12 months, because it was the first of those new-generation products launched.”

Mr Bernhard said that the new-model activity has been backed up by a recent rethink in the way customer issues are solved, with a dedicated team assembled to reach that goal.

Furthermore, there are a number of buyer programs in the pipeline, while Holden’s Financial Services has already hit its stride, with one in three buyers using it in July, after only three months in operation.

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