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Holden gains access to every GM brand

Planning time: Holden chief Dave Buttner says all General Motors brands are on the table for Holden’s future line-up.

Every model from Chevy to Cadillac is possible as Holden’s Americanisation continues

23 Oct 2018

GM HOLDEN chairman and managing director Dave Buttner has hinted that the company could shift to a fully US-based model line-up over the next five years, with Holden gaining access to all of General Motors’ vehicle divisions including Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.
Speaking with GoAuto at the launch of the Acadia seven-seat SUV in Melbourne last week, Mr Buttner said that nothing would be off the table if it was deemed a good fit within the Holden portfolio, including large as well as medium-sized trucks to sit above the Colorado one-tonne pick-up.
This all but confirms that the existing Astra and Commodore models from the former GM-owned but now PSA Group-controlled Opel will likely be the last when their respective contract runs out in about 2022 and 2023 respectively.
“The facts are we can draw on a fantastic stable of SUVs and trucks,” Mr Buttner revealed. “And I spent a week in Detroit back in September as part of my 60 days of immersion, and I had a chance to go to the design studio, visit all the studio, see every clay model, see everything that’s under development for all of the brands.”
Mr Buttner refused to divulge whether the upmarket Buick or luxury Cadillac brands would join the blue-collar Chevrolet and semi-premium GMC models already represented in Australia with the respective Trax, Equinox, Colorado and Trailblazer as well as the Acadia.
But he made it clear that Holden is getting in at the planning and discussion phases that are years out from launch to ensure that no vehicle option goes unexplored. 
It is believed the failure to get in early with the soon-to-be-released Chevrolet Blazer large five-seat SUV means that, as a left-hand-drive-only proposition, it is too late for Holden to access that vehicle line.
“If you get in early enough at the platform development stage designed for both right-hand drive and left-hand drive, then really, the world’s your oyster in terms of what you can bring in,” Mr Buttner said. 
“You just have to make sure what you’re bringing in, you have to understand the market today, and if we’re planning three-to-four years out, then also what’s the market tomorrow. So, you have to make sure you are bringing in the right product to meet the market at the right time.”
Mr Buttner added that the promise and potential he saw when offered the top job at Holden was realised during his recent trip to GM’s headquarters, boosting his confidence in both the brand and the products in the pipeline.
“I was quite buoyed with what I saw when I was up there and the positivity towards Australia, and the strong desire to provide product to make a success in the future,” he said.
“That really excited me, and reinforced a lot of what I believed and learned when I did the due diligence when I accepted the role, and to go there to see what’s happening and the world of research and development and design, it just made me think: ‘Yep, we’re on the right track.’”   
Models that might be under consideration for Holden as the next decade unfolds include the future Chevrolet Cruze small car (to replace Astra), Camaro muscle car and Corvette sportscar, Colorado mid-size ute, Silverado pick-up truck (although the GMC branded versions can also supply the latter), as well as any possible Cadillac sedan or SUV.
The evolution of the Bolt and Volt electric vehicles are also thought to be on the table for Holden, as long as these – along with every other GM vehicle moving forward – is developed for RHD. 
Asked if cherry-picking models from brands with quite different design themes or brand positioning might confuse Australian consumers, Mr Buttner said it was more important to select the right vehicle for the right market.
“It’s interesting, because we have had discussions in terms of the focus of one brand so you have that same face across the product,” he explained. “But the fact that we can draw on a world of cars from different brands, (we ask ourselves) ‘What’s the best vehicle for this segment?’
“So, when we looked at (Acadia’s large seven-seat SUV class), we felt this was a big, bold vehicle, a GMC product that in this market that would suit the market, while the Equinox is a Chevy product that suits the segment it competes in. 
“So, having that advantage to draw upon, at this stage we’re not hung up about having the same face, it’s not something we’re focused on, but whether that changes as we go through our strategic plan, we’ll see what comes out of that … and I don’t know of another product that’s got that similar number of brands on which they can actually draw upon.
“The fact that both Equinox and Acadia were developed exclusively in right-hand drive for Australia is a sign of GM’s commitment.”
Using the Acadia as an example, Mr Buttner outlined the reception that the newcomer received on its initial viewing from tough-talking Holden dealers.
“As an example, when we had our (Acadia) dealer launch with dealers in from all around in Australia … and dealers have been around a long time and they understand product with a second sense of what’s going to attract people to their showroom and what’s going to sell, and two-a-person they are so excited about this vehicle,” he said.
“Having a product that commands presence brings people into their showroom, and though they may not end up buying this particular model for whatever reason, they might buy something else.
“At least they’re in their showrooms and they have a chance to talk to them. And I think this sort of stylish, aggressive and bold vehicle will attract people to showrooms.”
With the dealers on side and a view of what’s coming, Mr Buttner concluded that Holden’s fortunes are turning around at last.
“So, we have the portfolio now, and because we can draw from all these different brands, I have no fear at all about us having product for the future,” he said. “In fact, I am quite excited after being up (at GM HQ in Detroit) speaking to the head of design and the head of engineering about the amount of work that’s going on inside GM that they are a force to be reckoned with in the future.
“I have been immersed previously, but this has been a different sort of immersion with a different brand, and I am really very excited with what I saw.
“I was told ‘Dave, we’ll have RHD product to support you’, and what I realised was the size of the GM stable that we can draw upon that we can enhance our portfolio here in Australia to meet the needs of Australian consumers over time.” 

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