Champion team v team of champs
BADGE for badge and car for car, Ford beats Holden.
That sounds crazy when the red lion is so far ahead in sales but Holden’s success is all about the Commodore.
It’s not just the car itself, which is handily the best Australian car of all time, but the halo it provides for the rest of the range — from the baby Barina Spark through to the heavyweight Colorado.
Thousands of new-car shoppers head to a Holden dealership because of the confidence they get from the Commodore. But if you kill the Commodore, as Holden will in 2016, you breathe life back into Ford.
Right now, Holden is the champion team but Ford has the team of champions. The blue oval brand’s Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, EcoSport, Territory and Ranger are so far ahead of their red lions rivals that it’s a non-event.
Ford also picks up the Mustang as its halo car in 2015 and it’s already building plenty of excitement.
The difference between the brands is that Ford Australia has tapped into a global development program that’s producing great cars and finding cost-effective factories — as in Thailand — to build them.
Holden is taking its cars from Korea with minimal local tweaking.
As Holden winds down its engineering efforts and sells the Lang Lang proving ground that’s been used to such great effect for Australian development since the 1950s, things can only get worse.
Detroit promises big things for the next generation of General Motors cars — there are already plenty of mid-sized Insignias in secret development in Melbourne.
But if the Cruze experience is any indication, it will take a lot more than promises to produce the long-term import success that Holden craves.
Even now, Holden is in trouble with cars that are good but not great.
The Captiva should be easy to recommend, and the Series II update made a big difference, but it’s still not a Territory beater and is well behind the class leaders.
The Barina is better than it was … but that wasn’t much.
Ironically, salvation for Holden could come from Opel, the German GM brand that was shut down less than a year into a stand-alone sales program in Australia.
It has the classy cars that Australians crave, provided they can roll into Holden showrooms at affordable prices.