Holden chairman and managing director Dave Buttner has resigned from the position after barely a year in the job, as the brand continues to battle falling sales.
Buttner joined Holden on August 1 last year, lured out of retirement after spending more than 30 years helping Toyota become easily the number one seller in Australia.
It was a position Holden last held in 2002, however by the time Buttner came on board it had slipped to own just a 5.3 per cent national new car market share.
In Buttner’s 16-month tenure, the slice has dropped to 4.2 per cent and this September was the first time the brand had ever failed to sell 3000 vehicles in a month.
Buttner, whom a media statement said was stepping down due to personal reasons, aimed to focus the brand on SUVs and utes. While the Colorado has been a solid citizen in the light commercial segment, the likes of the Trax, Equinox and Acadia have watched on as other SUVs surged in popularity around them.
Holdens have made up just 3.3 per cent of new SUVs sold in Australia this year – putting at ninth spot on the list.
However, in an announcement to media, Buttner said the goal remained the same for Holden as it moves forward under the leadership of interim boss, Kristian Aquilina.
“Holden’s focus remains on getting onto the consideration list for SUV and LCV buyers in Australia and New Zealand,” Buttner said.
“We have made significant progress in getting the fundamentals right. Now is the right time for me to depart the business, with a strong team in place, to be led by Kristian.”
Aquilina is a GM veteran with more than 22 years in the company in a variety of roles, most recently executive director sales, marketing and aftersales.
The shift in leadership raises serious questions over the future of Holden.
Buttner went on record earlier this year to deny rumours distributor Inchcape could soon take over the brand, claiming he didn’t come out of retirement to close or sell Holden.
The rumours carried extra weight given Inchcape handles Australian distribution of Peugeot and Citroen, which now build the Holden Astra and Commodore (Insignia) since PSA bought GM’s European brands Opel and Vauxhall two years ago.
Opel’s sale has also shown GM’s global HQ is willing to cut its losses with underperforming brands.
A Holden spokesperson said GM had made investments to drive sale and ensure a healthy future.
“GM has made significant investments to support the Holden business, like RHD Acadia and RHD Corvette, as well as projects like Maven and Holden Financial Services,” they said.
“Holden continues to undertake work to optimise its business and drive sales, by earning its way onto the consideration list for people buying SUVs and utes.”