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Holden confident over hulky Hummer H3

Serious off-roader: The H3 will compete against some heavy hitting SUVs.

Holden doesn't expect the public to recoil over its plans to introduce Hummer

Hummer logo2 Nov 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

AUSTRALIA may well be experiencing unprecedented fuel price instability, a shrinking SUV marketplace, increased environmental awareness and negative media focus on fatalities involving SUVs, but Holden does not expect a public backlash to plans it will introduce General Motors' legendary truck brand Hummer here in mid-2007.

"I think it's a great time to launch Hummer," said GM Holden executive director sales, marketing and aftersales Alan Batey in Sydney on Thursday.

"You look at how well the aspirational brands have been going in Australia over the last four or five years. It's a great time launch the brand. I think the response to it is going to be awesome." Asked whether Holden expected a negative reaction from some public quarters, Mr Batey said: "No, not really. It is what it is, so we’re not really concerned about a backlash.

"I think it would be naïve to say that I don't expect there will be a comment out there, so we need to put our case forward very precisely. No I don’t think there will be a major backlash, but there will be comments and we expect that," he said.

The move will make Australia one of the world's first right-hand drive countries to take delivery of Hummer's smallest model, the H3, launched in the US in May 2005, following the start of right-hand drive production at GM's Port Elizabeth plant in South Africa next year.

However, Holden is yet to reveal pricing for the H3 or which retail outlets it will be sold through, or even how many examples it intends to sell in Australia.

"We're going to sell as many as we can, but we honestly don't know. We don't have a sales projection for it," Mr Batey said.

"I think it's true to say that I would expect it to be 1000 rather than in the hundreds. It's really a vehicle that is unique from a styling perspective and has done brilliantly well everywhere it's gone around the world so far. And I think it'll do the same here.

59 center image"The (SUV) market is still sizeable. You go back a decade and there was hardly an SUV being sold here, so the market's still there and it's for us to conquer because we're not there. So for us it's all additional opportunity, but it's a niche – it's not going to be a mainstream segment." Mr Batey would not confirm whether the H3 would be available through Holden dealers.

"The network announcement is three months away. We're just finalising the details of which distribution channel we will use," he said.

Unsurprisingly, Holden's media release says the H3's off-road ability will appeal to Australian buyers, but Mr Batey said the H3's road presence alone will be enough to make people say "I just want one" – in a similar way to HSV's models.

"I've been driving one, (GM Holden boss) Denny (Mooney) has been driving one and the road presence is just unbelievable. The interest it gets is amazing. At the end of the day the reason people will buy it is because of the look," he said.

Mr Batey said the whole gamut of Hummer merchandise and accessories would support the brand's Australian introduction, which would be followed by a diesel variant and other H3 bodystyle derivatives. He downplayed the relevance of the H3's pricing and its likely rivals.

"The vehicle will be attractively positioned. We've got to offer the value but at the end of the day I don't believe we're going to get into a very competitive set of competitors," he said.

"It's so unique. You could say it will compete with other mid-size (SUVs), but I would say that somebody who's considering a Hummer is probably not considering other mid-size SUVs. It's got to be lifestyle driven, affluent young people who want to have that presence and you can really personalise these Hummers." On the subject of premium all-American brands, Mr Batey said Cadillac was still no closer for Australia.

"At this moment in time, we have no plans to introduce Cadillac. We're always looking at the whole portfolio around the world, considering our options, making sure there is a market opportunity and that when we launch it we give it the attention it requires. Launching a new brand is something that takes time," he said.

Hollywood Hummer destined for Oz


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