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Shrouded future: Mark Harland has left GM Holden after 16 months as the brand’s executive director of marketing and will be replaced by Kristian Aquilina.

GM HOLDEN’S executive director of marketing Mark Harland has left the company after just 16 months in the role and will be replaced by Holden and Isuzu Trucks New Zealand managing director Kristian Aquilina.

Under Mr Harland’s direction, Holden launched the Astra sedan and Sportwagon, Equinox mid-size SUV, and the new-generation imported ZB Commodore, but the brand’s sales have slid a drastic 22.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 from 20,119 to 15,524 year-on-year.

Despite advertising campaigns such as the Commodore’s ‘For Sure’ and Equinox’s ‘Nothing to Prove’, Holden’s new imported Commodore has dipped a substantial 53.7 per cent year to date, while the brand’s crucial new medium crossover is being outsold by the segment-leading Mazda CX-5 by more than six to one.

Mr Harland was also responsible for Holden’s tie-up with Surf Life Saving Australia and Mardi Gras, while he also renewed support for the Collingwood Football Club, NRL State of Origin and the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership League.

Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard thanked Mr Harland for seeing the Lion brand through the shutdown of local manufacturing in October last year.

“Mark has brought a fresh perspective to Holden during a difficult period of transition,” he said. “We thank him for his passion and wish him well on his future endeavours.”

Mr Harland’s next move is currently unknown, but he leaves General Motors after 20 years that also saw him take on roles including Chevrolet regional marketing manager, GM director of connected customer experience, and GM director of marketing and customer experience prior to his appointment at Holden in late 2016.

Kristian Aquilina

His Holden predecessor, Geraldine Davys, served just 15 months in the job before returning to her previous role at iSelect. Ms Davys was announced as Nissan Australia’s new marketing director in February.

Mr Harland will be succeeded by Mr Aquilina, who will return to Holden Australia after three years and four months in the top job at the Lion brand’s division in New Zealand.

Mr Aquilina started his career at GM Holden in 1997 in corporate affairs before moving to roles such as manager of export sales operations, national manager of government relations and public policy, and general brand and product marketing manager.

Mr Bernhard said Mr Aquilina’s experience in New Zealand will be key in turning around Holden Australia’s sales fortunes.

“Under Kristian’s leadership, the Holden brand and sales have continued to strengthen in New Zealand,” he said.

“Kristian’s understanding of product, marketing, customers and the Australian motoring landscape is second to none. We are looking forward to Kristian advancing the Holden business in Australia.

“We’re passionate about our future and confident that our sales will improve. Marketing is a key part to ensuring this.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kristian said: “As a business and as a brand, we are in a period of significant transformation.

“I’m passionate about Holden and our products – they are the best we’ve ever had. My job is to bring people on the journey with us,” he said.

By Tung Nguyen

Kristian Aquilina

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