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Number 1 not top priority: Bernhard

Just the beginning: Holden has already kicked off its product renaissance with Opel-built models including the Astra (left), Insignia and Cascada, but there is more on the way.

Holden will focus on product, brand and customer service over becoming number one

Holden logo13 Sep 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

GM HOLDEN’S new chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard said he still believes the company can one day regain market leadership in Australia, but it is more focused on delivering quality product and making gains in customer service than unseating Toyota.

Back in April last year, previous Holden MD Gerry Dorizas famously laid out his bold plan to take over Toyota at the top of the Australian new-car sales charts by 2020. Mr Dorizas quit the top role after just seven months in the chair.

Speaking with media at an event in Melbourne, Mr Bernhard said while the company wants to take back the sales crown, it would not nominate a timeline, adding that the immediate focus was on other key areas.

“I am certainly here to win,” he said. “Holden is here to win. Every employee comes to work every day to win. Just like football teams are in it for premierships, so are we.

“But I am not going to put a timeline on it. We don’t need that target on our back. Our goal is to be the best automotive company in Australia. But we are playing a long game. We need to focus on the fundamentals of our business.

“These fundamentals being customer experience, product and brand. Everything has to come back to those three fundamentals.” Mr Bernhard highlighted Holden’s capped-price servicing scheme and its Home Ground Advantage program that supports grass-roots sporting clubs through grants of up to $100,000 as examples of the company’s commitment to improving the customer experience and its brand image.

He also hinted at the coming new-model onslaught that will involve 24 new models released by 2020, but did not divulge any details on any potential additions to the range.

“It’s the most comprehensive overhaul in Holden’s history,” he said.

“So far we have launched the Astra, the Insignia and the Cascada. You know the all-new Spark is coming next year and of course tomorrow we have VF Series II Commodore. What else will we launch? That’s commercially sensitive so I’m not going to tell you. But it does mean all new small cars and a range of all-new SUVs.” As GoAuto has reported, beyond the new Spark, Holden has also confirmed that a replacement for the ageing Captiva and a new “world-class” SUV are on the way, the latter of which could be the SUV that Opel announced it was developing for release later in the decade.

Other likely starters are the Astra small car to replace the locally built Cruze, a V8-powered performance car, possibly from GM’s American stable, and the next-generation Commodore.

When asked when Holden will start communicating with its buyers about the next Commodore, Mr Bernhard said those details were still some way off being revealed.

“We haven’t worked through that. That will be something that we plan out as we move forward. It’s certainly not a high priority to look at it at the moment.”

As well as announcing that Holden will keep its Engineering Development department, Mr Bernhard also announced that its dealer network has committed to investing a significant sum into upgrading their facilities in the coming years.

“The dealer network is certainly confident in our future plans. Over the next five years our dealers have committed to investing $200 million in their business to upgrade facilities.” When asked if dealers were investing that amount of money because they wanted to or because Holden asked them to, Mr Bernhard said that in “most cases it was because they want to put it in”.

“They are excited about the future of where they are headed here. Particularly around the product side of the business.” As part of the model roll-out Holden has already confirmed it will source models from Europe, the United States and Asia when it becomes a full-line importer following the closure of its manufacturing operations by the end of 2017.

Mr Bernhard said there was little concern about currency fluctuations, and added that the spread of regions Holden will source cars from should even it out over time.

“If the product is available then we will take it if it is right for our customers and our market. The currency footprint is an interesting one.

“Certainly if we look to have cars from Europe, Asia and the US, it does help to smooth out some of those fluctuations for us and in some cars we may be winning and some losing. But we are not heavily skewed on currency.”

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