That disruption has included what some dealers have termed an ‘inconsistent’ marketing message, a loss of confidence and focus when about 30 dealers unexpectedly lost their franchise and the transition from a single-model, fleet-driven large-car company into one more focused on family buyers.
Critical changes have come from all angles. Not the least being Holden’s preparation for the huge swing by consumers to SUVs that started more than a decade ago, and the fierce onslaught of product from other markets, particularly from South Korea.
Consumer tastes also changed. Holden had a 12.3 per cent market share in March 2008 as its Commodore – which represented 34 per cent of its sales – was a fleet and family favourite.
The next most popular was the Astra and Holden Ute, each having 11 per cent of total Holden sales.
Small cars and big fleet cars were still in demand and SUVs were one-third of passenger-car sales.
In this environment, Holden was successful. A decade ago, Holden had two SUVs – the Commodore-based all-wheel-drive Adventra and the Captiva.
Workers could choose the Rodeo (cab-chassis or ute) or Holden Ute, both with rear-drive or all-wheel drive and single- and dual-cab bodies.
TOTAL SALES YTD 2018 MARCH = 15,524
HOLDEN MARKET SHARE MARCH = 4.8 PER CENT
TOTAL SALES YTD 2008 MARCH = 33,850
HOLDEN MARKET SHARE MARCH = 12.3 PER CENT
The Rodeo 4×4 ute commanded about seven per cent of Holden’s sales. Now, its equivalent – the Colorado 4WD – holds more than 22 per cent of Holden’s sales and that share is growing.
The reason Holden’s share of the market has fallen is not only about model share but the competition.
In 2008, there were 44 brands of passenger cars on the Australian market with a total of 295 models. In the first three months of 2008, 263,453 vehicles were sold.
In 2018, there are 49 brands (excluding trucks) on the market and 366 models, with sales in the first three months of 291,538.
More importantly, the shift to SUVs has overwhelmed many car-makers and caught some napping.
To combat the strength in the SUV sector and ward off rivals, Holden has expanded its SUV range. It now has four (Trax, Equinox, Trailblazer and the soon-to-depart Captiva). It has another, the full-size Acadia SUV, joining later this year.
Holden this week signalled a new direction to its marketing program, enlisting Holden New Zealand’s CEO to oversee the planning – including the highly-successful NZ advertising campaign – in both countries.
Perhaps this is the chance Holden has needed to go further in its transformation, adopting not only overseas products but a new approach borrowed from like-minded markets such as New Zealand.
By Neil Dowling