Holden’s Astra attack revealed

Euro-sourced Astra key to Holden’s plan to be Australia’s top-selling brand by 2020

TOBY HAGON

REBADGED Opels will spearhead Holden’s all-out Australian market assault to increase sales by 50 percent and reclaim the number one spot from Toyota by 2020.

GTC and VXR versions of the new Holden Astra coupe – last sold here as Opels in 2012 – arrive this month, followed quickly by the Insignia mid-size sedan mid-year.

But the real volume surge comes next year when Holden’s ability to challenge Australia’s best-selling small cars, the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla, steps up considerably.

Wheels has learnt the Astra range will expand to include five-door variants with the arrival of a next-generation model in 2016.

Despite the continued strength in SUV sales, the small-car segment remains the biggest by a margin – almost double the volume of the light, medium SUV, large SUV and 4WD ute segments.

Rarely does a brand lead the entire market without winning or being strong in the small-car segment, something Holden has struggled to achieve for more than a decade.

“If you’re going to win in the Australian market, you’ve got to win in four or five key segments,” Holden’s executive director of sales, Peter Keley, told Wheels.

He said that, while Astra will underpin Holden’s resurgence, it will not do the job alone.

“The diversity of the market is that you don’t have a dominant single brand in your range.

Having three or four vehicles at a similar volume … provides great continuity and confidence around the brand.”

The Next Commodore

GM REGIONAL boss Stefan Jacoby said the next Commodore – expected to be a rebadged version of the Opel Insignia that will draw inspiration from this Monza concept car – is already being developed here. “We are driving this car already in Lang Lang,” he revealed.

CONFIRMED

CORSA

Replacement for the Barina will keep the Corsa name.

Range will be topped by a VXR performance model

ASTRA GTC

is the moniker for the three-door. Turbo VXR (pictured) rival to Megane RS and Focus ST planned

CASCADA

Low-volume Astra-based convertible will add spice to the range as a cut-price Audi A5 alternative

INSIGNIA

Not successful here when sold as an Opel as it competed with Commodore. It will soon be a Malibu replacement

The Opel Corsa light hatch and Cascada convertible will also come to Australia, taking Holden’s Opel count to four models. And of those four, the Astra and Corsa will drive the majority of Holden’s projected 50,000 per annum sales growth.

Not all current Holden models will survive the invasion, however.

Wheels understands the slowselling Malibu is on borrowed time.

Likewise the locally produced Holden Cruze, which will end with the Elizabeth factory closure in 2017. The Cruze wagon, currently O proje grow mo how slo selling produc curre imported from Korea, will make way for the European-sourced Astra wagon.

The last time Holden sales exceeded 150,000 was in 2005. Last year, Holden sold 106,092 cars, making it the nation’s number two brand. But that volume was only just ahead of growing brands Mazda and Hyundai, which both also posted six-figure years.

The last time Holden led the market, in 2002, almost half of its models – nine of 19 – were Opels, with the top-selling Commodore flanked by the Euro-sourced Astra and XC-model Barina, the 2001 Wheels Car of the Year.

Holden hopes its input into the Opel models destined for Australia will help increase their showroom appeal. “We’re going to be able to assist Opel in getting a critical mass of volume for certain products,” Keley said. “As part of that, naturally our voice will be listened to about powertrains, technology … it’s what will make a successful product.”

While being European still has cachet, it’s a busier sector than ever, with Volkswagen now commanding a significant slice of the sales pie after solid growth.

“The marketplace has changed,” Keley said. “Premium brands continue to come down in the marketplace, making greater awareness in that type of product.

European heritage of the vehicle plays nicely into that from a consideration point of view.”

Holden’s general manager of marketing communications, Teresa Basile, is also confident the new breed will appeal to buyers.

“European does stand for quality and style,” Basile said. “Holden in the past has been very successful with Euro-sourced products such as Astra. The sentiment around Astra is still very, very positive.”

Holden will also use Opel as a source for new commercial vehicles, likely to see the return of the Combo and large Vivaro van.

The last time Holden led the market, almost half of its models were European

Holden needs Opel needs Holden

BELIEVE it or not, Holden has posted a profit much more recently than Opel. The Euro arm of GM hasn’t recorded a profit since 1999, haemorrhaging $20.3 billion since. Holden’s last recorded profit was in 2011. Under Karl-Thomas Neumann (pictured right), installed in 2013, Opel aims to return to profit in 2016. Part of that process includes pulling the Chevrolet brand out of Europe, closing Opel’s Russian manufacturing and flogging boatloads of cars to Australia.

Holden needs Opel’s products to boost its post-local manufacturing line-up, and Opel/Vauxhall needs every euro, pound and Aussie dollar it can get to climb back into the black.


ENDANGERED

MALIBU

A slow seller in a declining segment, absolutely decimated by the Toyota Camry and Mazda 6 in 2014

CRUZE

Cruze has already been wound back, with the diesel and 1.4 turbo dumped. Astra will replace some variants

NOT LIKELY

KARL/VIVA

The name alone is enough to have Shazza bolting for the nearest Toyota dealer; city cars bring little profit

BREEDER BUSES

Meriva and seven-seat Zafira (above) no chance for this generation because they’d likely be swamped by SUVs