GM HOLDEN has appointed Canadian-born Mark Harland as its executive director marketing, filling the vacancy left by Geraldine Davys when she returned to her previous role at iSelect in July after just 15 months in the Holden job.
The appointment of Mr Harland – who says he grew up in automotive dealerships – comes at a critical time for Holden which is in the process of reinventing itself as full-line vehicle importer with the closure of its Australian assembly plant in late 2017.
With almost two decades of experience with GM in North America, Europe and China, Mr Harland comes to Australia from Singapore where he has been GM International’s (GMI) marketing and customer experience director, heading up the vehicle sales, service and marketing team.
As Holden sits under the GMI umbrella, Mr Harland has been keeping tabs on the Australian operation, including working with Holden Marketing on its recent rebranding program.
Announcing the appointment, Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard said Mr Harland’s experience and passion would be invaluable in driving the next step in Holden’s brand transformation.
“Mark’s leadership and experience in various GM roles and markets, combined with his involvement in the development of our brand strategy and plans, means he has an in-depth understanding of where we are taking the iconic Holden brand, to better reflect and connect with today’s Australia.”
Mr Harland, who was born and raised in Montreal before moving to the US to further his education and career with GM, said he was thrilled to be joining Holden as it continued its transformation.
“We have a unique opportunity to build on the well-earned trust and confidence this brand has amassed over its history, and we’ll do that with world-class product, innovative technology and exceptional customer service,” he said.
“Having worked with GM and Holden for some time now, I understand the challenges in redefining this iconic brand, but our transformation is already well underway.
“We are listening to our customers, understanding the needs and aspirations of today’s Australians, and changing perceptions about who Holden is and what it stands for.”
Armed with an MBA from New York Institute of Technology, he joined GM in 1997 and promptly shipped off to Europe where he worked for five years.
In late 2001, Mr Harland returned to the US as GM area sales manager in New York City and Long Island.
He later became assistant regional marketing manager for the now-defunct Pontiac brand, before being appointed GM zone manager for New England where he was responsible for more than 60 dealerships.
After a spell as senior staff assistant to the vice-president of sales, he did stints as regional digital marketing manager and Chevrolet regional marketing manager in the US south-central region.
Moving to Detroit in December 2011, he became a GM director, running the company’s “Connected Customer Experience” before being posted to GM’s other big market – China – in 2012 and later on to GMI at Singapore.
Mr Harland will move his young family from Singapore to Melbourne where he will be based at Holden headquarters in Port Melbourne.
He is not the first Canadian to hold a senior role at Holden – former chairman and managing director Mike Devereux was also from “north of the border”.
By Ron Hammerton