New Chairman and Managing Director Mark Bernhard.
New Chairman and Managing Director Mark Bernhard. photo supplied

Holden appoints new MD and announces new vehicles

GENERAL Motors has announced an ambitious and challenging plan to ensure Holden is not confined to a bit-part role in the Australian motoring market.

And at the helm will be the new Chairman and Managing Director Mark Bernhard, the company's sixth boss in as many years.

The Australian-born Bernhard was the former chief financial officer at Holden before moving to China to take on the role of vice-president and chief financial officer at Shanghai General Motors.

"Mark is the right leader to guide Holden through its transition to a national sales company and the repositioning of the Holden brand here in Australia to win in the long term," said Stefan Jacoby, the President of General Motor International.

"Mark brings all the knowledge of Holden, the specifics of the market in this country as well as the global knowledge of General Motors. We are very aligned, we have the chemistry, we understand the challenges of this market, we want to win with Holden here. He is passionate about Holden and to having success here in Australia and New Zealand and I truly think we have chosen the right candidate for this position.

Mr Bernhard faces a tough task. Not only will he have to overseer the shutdown of manufacturing processes by 2017 but he will also have to build a pathway for the brand which will facilitate its smooth transition from a builder of cars to an importer.

He will also have to ensure that Holden, a stalwart in the Australian motor industry since 1948, is able to welcome and thrive on an aggressive future plan which will see the company launch 24 new vehicle models with 34 new powertrain combinations by 2020.

"General Motors is investing millions of dollars to broaden Holden's portfolio and deliver world-class vehicles," said Mr Jacoby. "This new model onslaught will ensure Holden has world-class products in every major segment of the market."

While Mr Jacoby could not be pushed to reveal all the details, we do know that Holden will deliver an all-new Barina Spark early next year as well as a new Captiva replacement and an additional SUV and a sports car with real Holden DNA.

Holden vehicles will continue to be tuned and tested for Australian conditions and customer needs at the Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria.

There was some good news, too, for Commodore lovers with Holden pledging to keep it available long into the future.

"Holden is Commodore and Commodore is Holden," Mr Jacoby said.

"We want to be the No 1 not just in sales but we want to transform this business into profitability, a perfect customer experience with a really appealing product range in the market," he added.

Of course it is not all sparkles and light at Holden. While the design and engineering centres will remain open, there is still the small matter of scaling down the manufacturing processes before the 2017 deadline. Holden says redundancies will continue in manufacturing based on demand with no-last ditch reversal of plans expected. 

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