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GM names Aussie as new Holden chief

Full circle: The move to Holden will see current vice president and chief financial officer of Shanghai GM Mark Bernhard return to the company where his career started.

General Motors has appointed Australian Mark Bernhard as Holden’s new boss

7 Feb 2015

GENERAL Motors has announced the appointment of the Australian-born Mark Bernhard as chairman and managing director of Holden, making him the seventh person to take on the role in 10 years.

Mr Bernhard currently holds the role of vice president and chief financial officer of Shanghai GM in China, and the move marks the 51-year-old’s return to Holden where his career started in 1986 in finance.

Speaking at a press conference this week in Sydney, General Motors executive vice president and president of General Motors International Stefan Jacoby said Mr Bernhard’s Australian background and his experience with Holden and in overseas GM posts made him ideal for the role.

“We took our time to choose the right candidate,” he said.

“We had a global search, we looked internally and externally. I think Mark brings all the knowledge about Holden and the Australian specifics in this market here.

“He also has global knowledge about General Motors – he has worked in China, he has worked with the Asia-Pacific operation and he also has knowledge of course about GM’s head office in Detroit.

“So that combination of being an Australian, who started his career here, had various management positions in Australia but also global experience in Europe, in China and in the US truly qualifies him for this very important role.”

Mr Jacoby said it was important to him to choose the candidate personally.

“We are very aligned,” he said.

“We have the chemistry, we understand the challenges of this market, we want to win with Holden here. He’s passionate about Holden and having success in New Zealand and Australia.”

Mr Jacoby dismissed suggestions that Mr Bernhard’s finance background and limited marketing experience could work against him as Holden ends local manufacturing and transitions to a national sales company.

“Mark’s background is of course finance but I think he has much more skills than just finance,” he said.

“I think he understand the market, he’s had various General Manager assignments during his career and I’m truly convinced that he has all the skills necessary to run a marketing and sales company in Australia”.

Mr Bernhard’s appointment follows a quick succession of six different of Holden chiefs within the past decade with his predecessor Gerry Dorizas quitting in October last year, just seven months after he started.

During the interim period, chief financial officer Jeff Rolfs stepped in as Holden’s managing director.

Mr Jacoby said consistent management was a major consideration when looking for a candidate and said Mr Bernhard is committed to the long term.

“We have had six changes over the last years and consistency is important. Mark is committed to run this for the long term and we are committed as well.”

Mr Bernhard will begin the role in the second half of this year, but was in Sydney this week to meet Holden dealers.

While he did not attend the press conference, Mr Bernhard said in a statement that he was looking forward to coming back to Australia to head up the company where his career started.

“I am a Holden man, always have been,” he said.

“Managing director of this company has always been a dream job. While I know that the company is going through a very challenging transition, I also know that it has a very bright future.

“I understand that the transition from being a manufacturing company to a national sales company is not easy. We need to ensure that those that leave us as a result of this change are treated with dignity, respect and most of all, support.

“But I am really looking forward to leading the re-making of our iconic company as we bring in great new product, continue to revitalise our aftersales service and re-establish ourselves as Australian customers’ favourite car company.”

Further to the announcement of the new chief Mr Jacoby revealed a “model onslaught” of 24 major new-vehicle launches would take place for Holden by 2020.

While he would not go into details he said this would include the debut of the new Barina Spark next year and the arrival of a Captiva replacement along with another new SUV.

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