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Tell-all biography to put the heat on Holden

Forthright: John Crennan has so far put about 600 hours into his partly written book about his 50 years at GM Holden and Holden Special Vehicles.

Former Holden and HSV executive John Crennan promises to pull no punches in book

Holden logo10 Dec 2012

ONE of Australia’s most prominent motor industry and motor sport executives is promising a tell-all biographical account of his 50 years in the game, including an insider’s view of some of the most explosive chapters in Holden history.

John Crennan, who joined GM Holden 50 years ago today and went on to found Holden Special Vehicles and Holden Racing Team with British entrepreneur and racing driver Tom Walkinshaw, says the manuscript of the book titled 50 Years of Holden, 1962-2013, is 70 per cent written, having taken about 600 hours thus far.

The book’s subtitle – People, Personalities, Politics and Poor Performances - indicates the book will pull no punches, with Mr Crennan promising: “Like the way I work, I don’t sit on the fence.” Mr Crennan promises to cover the Holden bust-up with racing icon Peter Brock, the subsequent founding of HSV, driver Craig Lowndes’ controversial departure from HRT, Tom Walkinshaw’s business collapse, and racing champion Mark Skaife’s skirmish with Mr Walkinshaw over the HRT ownership, in the book due out next year.

But the book also promises to be uncomfortable reading at both Holden and HSV, with Mr Crennan saying he will outline why he believes Holden has crumbled from 50 per cent market share to about 10 per cent today – and tarnished its brand image along the way – and why “the ‘special’ seems to be lost from Holden Special Vehicles”.

Mr Crennan worked at Holden from 1962 to 1987, rising to become the national marketing manager before becoming the founding managing director of HSV in 1987 in the wake of the Brock sacking, which meant the end of the Brock’s alliance with Holden on the Holden Dealer Team performance car division and racing arm.

Mr Crennan guided HSV and HRT for 20 years until he ‘retired’ in 2007, although he remained active as an auto industry consultant and, more publicly, chairman and chief executive of Kelly Racing in V8 Supercars.

Kelly Racing has just formally ended its relationship with Holden and officially taken up with new V8 Supercar entrant Nissan – 50 years after Mr Crennan started work at Holden’s Fisherman’s Bend headquarters in Melbourne.

Mr Crennan said he has been having trouble finding the time to work on the book, which he had planned to release on the anniversary today.

“Having done approximately 600 hours of work on my book, I have always found these hours rather cathartic by reflecting on all the people, intrigue and fierce competitiveness of this compelling auto industry,” he said in group email to journalists, friends and colleagues expecting the biography.

Mr Crennan said that of all the stakeholders in the industry that he had dealt with in 50 years, he found dealing with car dealers the most enjoyable “by a huge margin”.

On the subject of people, he says he will detail why he believes Holden has gone from having so many “heavy-weight, highly talented executives” to “so few in the past 25 years”.

His views on Mr Walkinshaw, who died of cancer in 2010, will be informative, as he worked for 23 years with the crusty Brit.

In Mr Crennan’s words, he plans to reveal the “three shades of Tom Walkinshaw – good Tom, bad Tom and enigmatic Tom”.

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