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Holden to fend off Ford and Mitsubishi, hunt Hyundai

Rest assured: With a new seven-year program in place, the last examples of the locally built Holden Commodore will be covered by a factory-backed warranty until 2024.

New products to help Holden maintain fourth place on sales charts

19 Jun 2017

HOLDEN has banked on this year’s fresh product onslaught to help it cling to fourth position on the brand-sales charts, despite the impending effects of October’s factory shut-down, as well as Ford and Mitsubishi closing in on its numbers.

Five years ago Holden was second only to Toyota for annual brand sales, recording 114,665 sales in 2012. It was overtaken by Mazda in 2015 and then Hyundai in 2016 as sales slumped to 94,308 units last year, while the top three brands continued to post six-figure tallies.

According to sales data to the end of May 2017, Holden’s 32,840-unit haul has fallen by another 10.4 per cent year-to-date, remaining behind Hyundai (37,568 and down 10.7 per cent), and with Ford (31,582 and down 0.7 per cent) and Mitsubishi (30,407 and up 6.5 per cent) hounding at its heels.

Meanwhile the Australian offshoot of General Motors (GM) has after three years replaced its executive director of sales Peter Keley with Michael Filazzola, who spoke with GoAuto about plans to turn the sales tide around at the national media launch of the Astra sedan in Byron Bay this week.

Asked where the 21-year Holden veteran would be happy with the brand finishing in 2017, Mr Filazzola was clear: “We want to be in the top four.”“My drive is to ensure we actually don’t finish fifth, sixth, or seventh. We’ve got to keep the leadership within Hyundai, Mazda and Toyota. We have to keep it in that segment, I think, and that is where I’m aiming towards.”

As the October 20 closure deadline looms for local manufacturing and the production end of the Commodore – that year-to-date has accounted for more than a quarter of Holden’s sales with 8889 units – Mr Filazzola said the brand would push hard with Astra, Colorado and its forthcoming Equinox SUV.

“I would say that it (growth) really relies on this segment, the Astra segment, and the Colorado segment, they’re the two that will actually dominate for us (and) if they do, then no problem,” he continued.

“The Astra hatch, it continues to grow month-on-month. It’s probably not where we’d like it to be from a brand perspective, we had a much more aggressive ramp (up period) that we wanted to sell at. (But) with the sedan, that will fit nicely into the segment that we’ve been missing, that we haven’t been able to challenge.

“This is what I think will fill that (sales) void that we’ve got at the moment.”

While the Astra’s 3155-unit total is a long way from the Cruze’s 4621-unit haul this time last year, Holden hopes the sedan can add another 40 per cent of new volume and, once firing, its small car nameplate could achieve around 2000 monthly sales.

In better news, the Colorado 4x2 has risen 12.4 per cent to 991 year-to-date sales, while the Colorado 4x4 has soared 21.8 per cent to 7423 units, together almost eclipsing Commodore as Holden’s top-selling vehicle.

“We’re very happy with where Colorado is,” Mr Filazzola continued.

“Again, it’s probably taking longer for us to establish that as a solid product, but it is growing, we’re actually meeting a lot of commitments we’re making within the brand ourselves.

“When you look at OEMs as they launch products, how long it takes for the product to really establish itself, Colorado is actually ahead of the curve.”

The next major piece in the Holden recovery puzzle will not, however, arrive until the fourth quarter of 2017.

Incredibly, sales of the current 11-year-old Captiva increased by 0.9 per cent so far this year, and Mr Filazzola explained that only five-seat versions of that model will later this year be discontinued as the new-generation Equinox fires up.

The seven-seat Captiva will continue to sell alongside Toyota RAV4-rivalling Equinox until the Kluger-challenging Acadia arrives in the second half of 2018.

“Captiva keeps selling, I think about how old that vehicle is, yet it still holds its own,” the sales executive said.

“And then you’ve got the Equinox which will do the five-seater, and then obviously the Captiva that will continue until the new Acadia comes along.

“It (Equinox) is a different product than Captiva. We want it to spur on extra volume. So I think we’ve still got a line-up there that… it’s not like we’re shutting the tap off and we don’t have anything to replace it.

“We’ve got 7.1 per cent share, it’s tough out there, there’s lots of competition, OEMs are bringing out new products all the time so it’s not easy to hold onto share. But we’ve got very good new products coming.”

Mr Filazzola further added that such new products would not only increase volume in each respective segment, but also diversify sales beyond one dominant model that he accepted for Holden had been Commodore for a long period.

Despite being 4728 units behind Hyundai over the first five months of this year, the sales executive pointed to that South Korean manufacturer’s reliance on the i30 small car as a potential opportunity for Holden as its new products arrive.

“If you have a look at Hyundai, what do they rely on?” Mr Filazzola said.

“The i30, for their volume. If that car doesn’t do well, they struggle. So we’ve actually looked at the Colorado, we’ve looked at the small cars, we look at the SUVs, and we’ve tried to actually ensure that we’ve got a product for every customer within our range.”

Hyundai accepted that with the previous-generation i30 up to 90 per cent of buyers selected the entry-level version that, for several months of the last calendar year, retailed at $19,990 driveaway with a free automatic gearbox.

The new-gen i30 lobbed last month from $21,450 plus on-road costs in manual trim, with sales down 32.6 per cent year-to-date and, being around one-third of Hyundai’s annual volume, contributed to a greater decline than Holden.

Holden director of corporate communications Sean Poppitt, meanwhile, placed a clear target in front of the brand for 2017.

“If we can finish this year selling one more car than we did last year, I consider that a win,” he told GoAuto.

“Because that would be the first time in probably 15 years that we haven’t gone back on market share. Now, the market’s going to decide that. The strength of what we do is going to decide (it). We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We know how big the challenge is, but you’ve got to have a great mindset.

“If you’re not here to do that, then you might as well go home now.”

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