Holden is here to stay and has dismissed a report that parent company General Motors is in talks to sell the lion brand as being ‘rumour and innuendo’.
Speaking at a recent event at Holden’s Lang Lang testing ground, Holden managing director and chairman David Buttner was terse in response to questions over the alleged meetings between GM and automotive importer Inchcape, as reported in the Australian Financial Review.
“There is certainly nothing going on,” said Buttner, quashing any suggestion that Holden is up for sale. “We are not for sale and I didn’t come to sell the company down. I came out of retirement to work with people and to work with this fantastic brand.”
“There’s always rumours and innuendo around that story like the one that ran in the AFR. A lot of people sort of speculated and started to imagine what it might be but there is certainly nothing going on. I’ve been brought in to very openly and very honestly work with the great team at Holden.”
When pushed on the supposed Inchcape source that leaked the information, Buttner was resolute in response. “There have been no discussions with me or Inchcape. To the best of my knowledge there have been no discussions that have transpired, and I keep very close to GM and I speak to them on a regular basis and I’ve got absolutely outstanding support.”
“The statement was pretty much what I’m saying, that GM is committed to Australia, they brought me in to work with all of the stakeholders to regrow the brand, land our product and be a proper leader to contribute back to the GM pool, and I thought that was a very honest statement and nothing was hidden in there. I speak to them [GM] weekly, daily, and their commitment is resolute. I don’t know about any discussions at any level and that the honest truth.”
Holden’s passenger line-up has been shrinking to focus on SUV and light-commercial vehicles such as the new seven-seat Acadia and Colorado ute. Both are also the only growth segments year-to-date in the automotive market.
When questioned about the future of Opel-sourced product, Buttner could not confirm any specific commitment. “I’m talking generally about GM support so the product we get out of Opel is still under GM anyway, in terms of who we source through. It might be different ownership, but the product is still there,” he said. “These sorts of distractions don’t do anything to build the confidence inside Holden or amongst the dealers,” he added.
Not helping the cause in 2018 was dwindling sales, as the previous number one automotive brand slid to sixth spot on the ladder last year and put a hold on importing both the Astra and Commodore due to excess stock sitting in dealer yards. Buttner said Holden has dealt somewhat with oversupply and that the Commodore was back in production, Astras had been sold off, but the new Equinox SUV is still on hold.
“We had some issues with Commodore and Astra last year but, with the great effort of the team we’ve significantly reduced the stock back to manageable levels, and that’s a great place to start this year. Currently, we actually have orders back in the system for Commodores and there are Commodores being produced today as we speak, production has recommenced.”