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Toyota hopes for Holden recovery

Good guy: Former Toyota Australia president and now Holden chairman Dave Buttner is still regarded highly by his former colleague Sean Hanley, who in turn sees competition as making the industry ‘healthy and vibrant’.

New Holden chief Buttner a ‘tremendous leader’ and competition a good thing: Toyota

13 Aug 2018

TOYOTA Australia’s sales and marketing chief Sean Hanley says he derives no pleasure in seeing Holden hit upon troubled times in the marketplace and believes the lion brand’s newly appointed chairman and managing director Dave Buttner – the former president of Toyota Australia – will do a good job in his new role.
Mr Hanley also hopes Holden, and Ford, will bounce back “because it makes our whole industry healthy and vibrant”. 
Mr Buttner has more than 40 years’ experience in the Australian automotive industry, joining Toyota in 1987 from Ford and working across all areas of the business over the next three decades.
He played a pivotal role in Toyota’s market domination over the past 15 years – a run that at the end of last year, when he retired, saw it with an 18.2 per cent share – and now takes the reins at GM Holden, which, in the wake of its local manufacturing exit last October, has this year suffered a 24.8 per cent sales downturn.
To the end of July, Holden is currently sixth in the marketplace, with a share of just 5.3 per cent. 
“Dave made a really strong contribution to our company as a tremendous leader,” Mr Hanley told GoAuto last week. 
“And, you know, we wish him only good things at Holden. I think he’ll do a good job for Holden and he’s a very strong leader, and … we always maintain in Toyota that competition is healthy.
“I was very close to Dave, as we all were … I wish him all the best. I’ve actually spoken to him since his appointment at Holden, and I conveyed my best regards and best wishes.”
Asked whether if anyone can turn Holden around, it would be Toyota’s former chief, Mr Hanley said: “I don’t know Holden well enough to make any judgement on that. I just know Dave Buttner is a fantastic leader, and made a very big contribution to our company, so, you know, Holden have got a good guy.”
Whereas Holden has suffered since closing its Australian car-making operations, Toyota, which likewise pulled out of local manufacturing last October, has come through unscathed, with its sales up 1.4 per cent this year and its share increasing to 18.6 per cent. 
Ford, which pulled out of local manufacturing in 2016, was less heavily affected due to its imported Ranger ute and Mustang sportscar, rather than its locally built Falcon and Territory, underpinning its sales. 
However, the Blue Oval’s sales did fall 3.8 per cent last year, and are currently down 10.8 per cent for a 6.1 per cent market share.
Asked whether Toyota had made the transition to full-line importation better than Ford and Holden, Mr Hanley said: “No. I think each company had its own challenges. 
“I’m deeply respectful of Holden and Ford. I grew up with those brands like everyone else did in Australia, and they are good brands. The single difference is this: we were never solely reliant on locally made cars. 
“Essentially, the majority of our vehicle sales were imported from day one, when you go back in history. So our circumstances were somewhat different. 
“Don’t in any way take that the wrong way. I was as saddened as anyone to see local manufacturing close, for any of those car companies whether it be Toyota, Ford or Holden.
“Toyota had a very good plan. But we planned not only for transition; we planned for 10 years beyond transition as well. And that plan you’re starting to see now, and as a result of that plan, we are maintaining our sales and in fact growing a little bit. We are increasing our market share. 
“Our base was different to theirs, to start with. Our sales base was totally different. So I don’t think you can ever compare. 
“But I’ve often said, and I say it again, competition is healthy. Competition is strong. The only reason Toyota is where it is today in the Australian market is because we have strong, healthy competition that made us work extra hard to get to where we’ve got to.
“So there’s nothing wrong with competition and, quite honestly, I hope that the Holdens and the Fords, I hope they bounce back. I hope they do well. Because it makes our whole industry healthy and vibrant.”

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