"Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated;" or so might the catchphrase have been for Holden at a pre- Dieldays range overview.
Back when Holden announced that Commodore production would cease in Australia, it was suggested that this would be the nail in the coffin for the brand, as ‘the Commodore car company’ AKA Holden, was losing its biggest-selling vehicle and therefore, its biggest amount of market share.
Happily for Holden NZ, the door closing on Aussie Commodore production has actually seen a massive ranchslider open, revealing a wealth of vehicles which have up until now, been overshadowed by the quintessential ‘big Aussie car’, and allowed them to shine.
For now, it’s a time of consolidation for Holden New Zealand and getting all the ducks lined up properly with specification levels, variations on the theme, new powertrains in some cases and the implementation of a robust, aftersales and ongoing servicing arrangement to keep the new generation of Holden faithful, loyal to the brand.
All of this, plus a little tweaking in terms of corporate structure and general fine tuning while looking after its existing customers and attracting some early adopters is the focus to the end of 2018.
“2019 will be Holden’s year,” observed a spokesman for the brand. “It’s when we will have a vehicle proposition for every buyer across the mainstream segments and it will be the year when the consumer – private, business or fleet – will recognise that there is a lot more to the Holden range than they ever realised.
“What it will also do is allow us and our dealers to demonstrate how much of a unified range Holden has to offer. While we will source vehicles from all over the world, the ‘family-ness’ of them will be much more obvious than before when we had Commodore and others – but mostly Commodore.”
The recent showing of the largest part of the model line up certainly underscores the message of there being more to Holden today than many may think.
As well, the brand has a few more vehicles planned to debut this year, which will go even further to demonstrate Holden New Zealand’s broad reaching range.
So where have all these Holdens suddenly come from? Especially since Aussie is no longer building them? Well, some are from Asia, some are from Europe and some are from the US, demonstrating that Holden has become part of the global GM world in the widest possible sense.
Up until recently, Holden New Zealand was somewhat shackled by Holden Australia in terms of what it could get. Now free of the Trans-tasman chains, Holden New Zealand has much greater scope to select what it thinks will work in the local market, and us Kiwis are kinda picky...
That’s not to say Holden Australia and Holden New Zealand are the victims of an unhappy divorce – far from it.
Holden Australia took a much bigger beating in terms of market share than Holden New Zealand is ever likely to face. In true ANZAC spirit, the managing director of Holden New Zealand moved across the Ditch to assist in Holden Australia’s resurrection, which means a new face at the Holden New Zealand helm – that would be Mark Ebolo (see News).
In the transition period, Holden New Zealand drew together the core elements of its product range picked from around the planet – and that includes Commodore VXR – to reinforce, recapture and in some cases, reveal, the appeal of the broad-platform reach of
the Holden nameplate in the New Zealand market.
It is difficult to identify any single vehicle as the one leading the brand’s ‘global in New Zealand’ incarnation, so in no particular order:
The Equinox is HNZ’S medium SUV. Granted, it is a five-seater, but those five seats are generous, and the 846/1758 litres of luggage space leans it more towards the medium-large than the medium-medium. Equinox comes to us in five model variations, with either a 1.5-litre and two-litre turbocharged petrol engine or a 1.6-litre turbo diesel, mated to either a six or nine-speed transmission, depending on the model. It comes out of Mexico. From there, Holden has the three-model, seven-seat Trailblazer line up, all commonly running the 2.8-litre DURAMAX diesel engine, mated to a sixspeed automatic with a hi-lo ratio transfer case and limited slip differential as standard across the range. This is the current ‘big boy’ of Holden’s line-up and – from the name and the spec’ – its adventuring pretentions are pretty obvious. The Trailblazer hails from Thailand. And the counter to both the Equinox and to a lesser degree, the Trailblazer, are the two smaller SUV’S; the city smart, three-model Trax – baby brothers from another mother (South Korea in this case) to the Equinox, while the current four-model Captiva range sits somewhere in between the two. Then there is the Colorado line, which has a ute for every occasion in either 4x4 or 4x2 configuration. Of these, the Z71 crew cab is the current headliner, but come October, we will see the Colorado Extreme hit dealership floors. This is a concept ute turned top-of-the-line production model, which is destined to become the jewel in the Colorado crown. Colorado utes are sourced out of Thailand. While all of the above is likely to be the bread and butter of Holden sales going forward, it would be remiss to ignore the allnew, German-built Commodore liftback and Sportwagon ranges. Both offer the choice of either two-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engines or 3.6-litre V6’s with AWD and all with ninespeed automatics. Holden NZ has retained pecking order somewhat with a six-car line-up of liftbacks: a jack-of-all trades version leading logically through to the performance-oriented versions and better incorporating the once-distaff and aloof Calais and Calais V models into the range. Additionally, there are three Sportwagon models bearing the Commodore nameplate, two of which run the two-litre turbo engine, the third with the AWD 3.6-litre – and just as with the liftbacks, there is a Calais V spec’ equivalent bearing the name Commodore Tourer. The Commodore is a critical car for Holden NZ, by virtue of its history here if nothing else. Commodore has always maintained a significant local presence, but will this continue with a Euro-styled and built vehicle replacing something from our little corner of the world?
Holden NZ is going to have a darned good go at trying, but at the same time, has maximised the potential of Commodore’s reincarnation by introducing a first for the hero of the range – a diesel engine, which – even if it does offend the old guard of the Commodore clansmen – should be very well received in our market by the new generation of Holden buyer. At the other end of the spectrum is of course, the two-model – LS and LT – Barina with the 1.6-litre petrol engines and two-model 1.4-litre petrol engine Spark city cars out of South Korea. For those who want something either a little smaller than a Commodore, but a little bigger than a Barina, Holden NZ offers the Astra range in either hatchback (Poland), small sedan (South Korea) or wagon (UK) —all running turbocharged petrol engines from 1.4-litre to 1.6-litre. Towards the end of the year, Holden will be introducing the first of its Us-built products, the high spec’ seven-seat Acadia from GM’S plant in Tennessee, which was publicly revealed at this years’ Fieldays. HNZ is not slowing down either, with a promise to release more exciting models as time goes on, with vehicle connectivity going a step beyond cars merely ‘talking to’ phones. It will not be long now before Holden’s proprietary Mylink electronic suite will be connecting the vehicle with the owner/driver and beyond. Having a car able to talk to a phone is one thing; having a car able to use a phone to talk to other things is quite another, and this is the long game plan for Mylink and Holden New Zealand. In the meantime, and as part of the renaissance, Holden New Zealand has demonstrated its commitment to the New Zealand consumer in a very tangible way, adding ongoing additional value to the bottom line of vehicle ownership with its Complete Care Programme. This is a three year/ 100,000km Free certified service provision for every new Holden sold after 1 September 2017, which means if you travel 100,000km in three years, you’ll receive up to six 15,000km certified services and one WOF inspection. What’s more, the scheduled servicing is transferable, which adds a potential bonus when it comes to re-fleeting, encouraging a prospective new user to take ownership of your pre-loved Holden rather than a newer but pricier, whatever. Holden is committed to introducing a raft of new models between now and 2020, and to date, is the only manufacturer prepared to make a statement to that effect. Of course, there would be few manufacturers represented here who could pick and choose from the global supermarket that is GM, being restricted first, by the size of their parent companies and second by their own agility and ability, to respond to the New Zealand consumer’s needs. Far from going quietly into the darkness then, Holden New Zealand is actually looking at a rebirth, coming into a brave new world.