With the demise of Holden’s manufacturing and R&D facilities complete by 2017, General Motors is reportedly looking to kill off the Holden brand and switch over to Chevrolet instead.
According to Australia’s News Corp, the plan to shutter Holden has been around since the early days of the financial crisis, when GM wanted to kill it off along with Pontiac and Hummer. Only fierce resistance from Mark Reuss, who once headed up Holden, led to the brand being given a stay of execution.
Outgoing Holden boss Mike Devereux told News Corp that
“Holden is here to stay. Holden has been a part of Australia’s past … and it will part of its future for decades to come. Holden is one of the most valuable brands in Australia. We are committed to the brand for the long term. The brand is going to be a part of the fabric of this country for a very long time.”
But with Devereux scheduled to leave Holden for GM’s regional operations in Shanghai starting in February, 2014, Holden will lose another potential guardian.
GM insiders feel that with Holden becoming solely an importer of vehicles, there is nothing distinct about the brand, and it makes little sense to retain it. By contrast, introducing Chevrolet would allow for GM’s Australia division to take advantage of marketing efforts like the sponsorship deal with Manchester United, and avoid any negative backlash against Holden that would arise from shutting down its Australian factories.
Holden is also seen by some as having an image problem, too closely linked to Australia Rules football and other “bogan” pursuits. As part of its continued survival, Holden agreed to market the Volt as its own product, despite the fact that it is a major money-loser and sells in negligible volumes due to its high price and poor interior packaging.
Holden insiders told News Corp that “The amount of money we’ve spent trying to defend the Holden brand to Detroit is ridiculous,” but GM executives would counter their work with photos of Holden Utes retrofitted with Chevrolet badges as proof of Holdens irrelevance.
On the retail front, re-branding dealerships would cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 AUD, with dealers picking up half the tab. Any dealer that did not comply would risk losing their franchise.