OFF the back of record low sales in 2018, recently appointed Holden chairman and managing director Dave Buttner admits attitudes inside the decimated company have changed.
The frank admission puts Holden in a similar position to Korean brand Kia, which has spent years battling to be recognised by new car buyers – to the point where it almost matched Holden’s sales last year.
“We recognise we’re a challenger brand and we need to do things that epitomise what a challenger brand would do,” says Buttner, formerly president at Toyota Australia.
While at Toyota, Buttner adhered to that brand’s internal philosophy of “think like number one, act like number two”, which was designed to ensure a humble and competitive nature.
He says accepting Holden’s current position is part of moving forward and rebuilding the brand.
“If you don’t admit where you are, you won’t solve the right problems,” he says. “If we admit that up front we’ll do things very, very differently than with arrogant and complacent thinking.”
Buttner says that challenger mentality is now part of life within the smaller Port Melbourne head office of Holden.
“It’s very much now part of the vernacular inside Holden and also in our dealer network that we are a challenger brand.”
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Marketing director Kristian Aquilina says there has been a complete change of attitude internally that now drives thinking and motivates staff.
“Getting to this point has been painful, no question, for us, for our dealers, and for every passionate Holden person out there,” he says.
“We’ve been through the most painful bits and once we embrace this new reality that we’ve got it’s actually a pretty exciting time to be a custodian of such an important brand to this country.”
Holden’s sales in 2018 plummeted 33 percent with the annual tally of 60,751 pushing the brand to sixth on the sales charts – its lowest ever finish.
It was the eighth straight year of decline for Holden, but Buttner believes the brand has hit rock bottom.
“It’s still early days … there were positive signs (late in 2018),” he says, cautious of any over-reaching forecasts.
“This year we want steady state. We’re not shooting for the stars, we’ve got to land the product, get the brand health positive again, get everybody’s minds right and make just sure that we’re selling the portfolio products we’ve got now.”