Holden revolution? Icon brand ups the coolness and the love
TIMES are changing at the House of Holden.
As the iconic Aussie brand ushers in a new era as a full blown car importer rather than manufacturer, the coming months and years are pivotal to Holden's place in our hearts, minds and market.
And the noises it has made this week are to be commended.
"We're a brand in transition…we have huge challenges…we haven't always got customer focus right…we know lots of Australians don't think we've kept pace with what modern car buyers want."
Frank and refreshingly honest points made by Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard at a business briefing at Holden's Melbourne HQ on Wednesday.
So, problems recognised and acknowledged, what is Holden going to do about it?
Lots. And it is starting in earnest now, so prepare for an overhauled Holden onslaught.
Little things? The lion badge has been given a more premium chrome finish, there's a new "lifestyle editorial" website (which is really rather good), cleaner and fresher advertising on television and social media, plus new slogans.
Will these alone change any negative Holden preconceptions? Of course not, but they're all part of a grand plan akin to a mini revolution.
Chief is putting the customer first in all matters, Holden suggesting it values this above even sales and dollar profit. It wants to be seen as the most caring car company in Australia, and one appealing to seemingly every demographic in the market. Noble goals indeed.
Holden's research showed it was viewed by a lot of people as "Bathurst", "V8s", "local manufacturing" and certainly "blokey".
While such traits will appeal to plenty - your "traditional" Holden buyer if you like - a reliance on past glories alone isn't sustainable today. Embrace the good bits of the history and heritage sure, but it's time to be more things to more people.
Holden's listened and it looks good to deliver. What do we modern Aussie customers want? More SUVs, more technology, more safety features and a more diverse product portfolio. And guess what? It's also learnt we customers want to feel a bit more love. Good.
It's indeed sad that local manufacturing is ceasing, but if you need a positive it's that Holden can now cherry pick what it deems the best cars from GM for our market, be they imports from USA, Europe or Asia.
Hence why we're seeing 24 new Holden models by 2020 (we've just received number eight), including five new vehicles in the next five months: Colorado, Trailblazer, Astra and facelifted Trax and Barina.
All have desirable smartphone tech in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, will be offered with ever-impressive active safety kit, and all have had ride and handling fine-tuned right here in Australia by Holden engineers to suit our conditions.
As for feeling the love, Holden has launched a "Complete Care Commitment" promising to put customers at the centre of every decision.
Just hyperbole? Time will tell, but by listening to and learning from owner feedback Holden already has seen progress in customer satisfaction and quality, and has implemented lifetime capped price servicing for every Holden ever built. Simples. Give the people what they want.
Next new initiative is the "Take Your Time Test Drive" where customers take their choice of Holden for a 24 hour test at their leisure. Why? Buyers, especially women and the young, are scared of showrooms, feel pressured by salespeople and can be too busy to take an hour out of their work day for a drive.
So, grab the car, drive it on your own and take it back to show the family. Park it in the garage, take the kids to school, whatever. Nice idea, and should prove popular.
"We're on the verge of being a very different Holden," we're told. Fronting up in this way, recognising sins of the past even, is admirable and so we should at the very least pay attention and hear them out.
You'll have a good soundtrack to hear while doing so too, with young Aussie multi-platinum music producer Flume (Google it, granddad) providing the music in Holden's fresh ad campaigns with his latest track.
Its name? Trust. Good call.