Why did Holden hire Australian actor Michael Caton to talk up the future of the nameplate in New Zealand? In the video on the www.holdenheretostay.co.nz website, Caton hints at his trademark ‘Tell him he’s dreamin’ line from his role as Aussie battler Darryl Kerrigan in the film The Castle.
The point Caton (below) is paid to get across is that Holden is in New Zealand to stay. It’s backed up by Holden NZ managing director Kristian Aquilina in a press release: “As Mark Twain once said, the report of our demise is greatly exaggerated.”
Aquilina continued: “Some people thought incorrectly the closure of the factory in Australia last October meant the end of Holden altogether, but nothing could be further from the truth.
“Holden offers an award-winning range of cars, we’ve just launched the all-new Commodore and Equinox SUV and the new Acadia SUV is waiting in the wings. We are enjoying a product renaissance and have a very exciting future to look forward to.”
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The speculation about the future of the Holden nameplate in New Zealand and Australia began a year ago this month, days after French carmaker PSA Peugeot-Citroen bought Germany’s Opel for NZ$3.3 billion from General Motors.
It was further fuelled last October with the last Holden Commodore to be built in Australia. Holden would thereafter be an Australian name rebadged on vehicles built in plants thousands of kilometres from Australia.
The next Commodore would be built in Germany. It landed in New Zealand earlier this month, equipped with 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre V6 engines. The engine line-up fuelled even more speculation.
Australian industry analysts last year said one outcome of the Opel sale to Peugeot-Citroen would be that Holden would lose its influence with key international decision makers, which would eventually weaken its range of vehicles.
A key here were reports – unchallenged by Holden – that Opel added a V6 to the imported 2018 Commodore purely at the request of Holden.
The car that landed in New Zealand a few weeks ago was only supposed to have four-cylinder engines, but Holden begged back in 2016 for a V6 to avoid a buyer backlash in Australia and New Zealand. GM rubber-stamped millions of dollars in extra investment to make it happen.
Further questions followed. Was the Opel-Holden relationship doomed now that Peugeot-Citroen owns Opel? GM-owned Holden has been hand-in-hand with GM-owned Opel since the 1970s – the first Commodore was based on an Opel, the Rekord sedan.
Holden said there would be no impact on its showroom line-up for the next five or so years, because new Opel owner Peugeot-Citroen is unlikely to scrap the cars Opel is currently making.
Holden said it would rely on sourcing imported cars from General Motors in North American as well as from Opel in Europe.
Peugeot-Citroen says it plans to keep Opel as a separate brand, in a deal that would see it become the biggest automotive company in Europe after Volkswagen.
However, the next generation of Opel cars Holden sources from approximately 2025 onwards are likely to be radically different once Peugeot-Citroen starts to rationalise the model range to cut costs.
Given Holden’s shrinking market share in Australia, a country that represents just 2 per cent of global car sales, Holden won’t have anywhere near as much leverage with Peugeot-Citroen to tailor cars to suit New Zealand and Australian conditions.