Ready to call time? Not yet
HOLDEN is in trouble. Big trouble.
It’s not the death of the Commodore in the back end of 2016 that’s ringing alarm bells, but the cars the company is selling today alongside it.
The locally made Cruze is off the pace of the Volkswagen Golf and the rest of the Holden family — excluding the funky little Barina RS and the tough Colorado workhorse — are only journeyman players in the world’s most competitive showroom competition.
They will need to get a lot better by the time the bright halo from the Commodore is removed and the red lion brand sheds the local legend status it’s so assiduously cultivated since the 48-215.
The basic failing of the Holden line-up is the Korean connection that was forged to cut development and production costs on the majority of its imported models. It looked like a smart move on the money front, as well as providing cost-effective cars that could be sold with a Chevrolet badge into a range of developing countries.
But the rest of the car world has gone global, a move that has allowed their cars to be much better and still affordable, and the long-term reduction of local protection and the strength of the Australian dollar means we’ve never had better cars at cheaper prices. To see which way the wind blows, look at the price of the new Golf and the Benz A-Class.
The two big Korean brands, Hyundai and Kia, have also accelerated their product development in Holden’s traditional heartland while also tapping strongly into Australian tuning to make their cars more popular for local roads and drivers. It took Holden two years, a new transmission and engine to make the Cruze the car it is now. Holden’s other Daewoo-built product is not in the hunt.
Even Ford, which called time on the Falcon and Territory, has a better line-up than the red lion. Taken model-by-model, its contenders — including the European Fiesta/Focus/ Mondeo — are better cars than the equivalent Holdens. Ford’s traditionally inept marketing and communications mean they trail in the sales.
So, what does it all mean for Holden and the people — including the Carsguide crew — who want to see the brand survive as something more than an automotive Aldi?
Holden has four years to get things right. That means good cars and good value prices, with a tangible connection to the Commodore and the talented crew who built for the best Australian car of all time.
The good news is that Fishermans Bend has some talented people and they are aware of the problem.
Better news is that GM is changing its product focus and that the man in charge is former Holden president Mark Reuss, one of the most talented chiefs at Holden HQ. So we’re expecting European-style engineering at Korean-style prices, although not a cut-price Commodore from China.
Holden is losing its Lang Lang proving ground, and far too many of its engineering team, but there will still be designers at Fishermans Bend after 2017 and the company promises it will have early input to the home rooms for future global products and sign-off responsibility for the final tweaking of anything to be sold in Australia.
“Under this business model, we will have access to cars from across the GM global network,” says Holden spokesman George Svigos.