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Former Toyota boss Dave Buttner scores Holden top job

Dave Buttner has been tapped to lead Holden after Mark Bernhard's retirement at the end of July.

GM Holden has announced that Toyota Australia's previous president, Dave Buttner, will lead the company as chairman and managing director after the retirement of current boss Mark Bernhard at the end of July.

Mr Bernhard steps down after three years in the top job, having previously worked as vice-president and chief financial officer of Shanghai GM, as well as a member of the GM-SAIC joint venture's executive committee.

He joined Holden in 1986 and worked various roles in the finance department, while his extensive resume also include GM International Operations manager of budgets and consolidation, GM International Operations director of financial reporting and analysis, and GM Asia Pacific director of special projects.

"Holden was born here and has a special place in our hearts," Mr Bernhard said. "I wish Dave and his team every success for the future."

Of note, Mr Bernhard guided Holden through the shuttering of local manufacturing that saw the Commodore switch from home-grown, rear-drive large sedan to imported and rebadged Opel Insignia mid-sizer.

Similarly, Mr Buttner also led Toyota Australia as president while the Japanese car-maker wound down local production of the Camry and switched to a full-time importer last year before stepping down.

Mr Buttner was president of Toyota's local division for three and a half years and worked at the Japanese brand for three decades, but started in the automotive industry at Ford Motor Company.

His other credentials include Toyota Australia executive director to the board and Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries president, as well as various roles in manufacturing, production control, sales and marketing, and administration.

GM Holden's current boss Mark Bernhard will retire at the end of July. GM Holden's current boss Mark Bernhard will retire at the end of July.

"I am honoured and energised by this incredible opportunity to lead Holden, a company which is part of the fabric of our country," Mr Buttner said.

"I look forward to working with our people, our dealers and our partners to grow our business and get more Australian and New Zealand drivers behind the wheel of more and more Holdens."

GM International president and GM executive vice-president Barry Engle said Mr Buttner's mandate will be to increase Holden's sales and ensure the business stays profitable.

"Dave's proven track record and understanding of Holden's markets – and the company's potential in those markets – makes him the right leader for this next phase in the evolution of the business," he said.

"Dave's mandate is to work closely with our dealer network to win more customers for life, grow Holden's market share and ensure our business is strong and profitable in the long term.

"Holden will have a strong future under Dave's leadership."

Mr Buttner will face an uphill battle though, as Holden sales have plummeted 22.6 per cent to 32,614 units in the first half of the year with all of its models – excluding the Barina and discontinued Spark – decreasing their share.

Commodore sales have halved to just 5384 so far this year in the switch from locally produced to imported, while Holden's Equinox crossover has only amassed 2685 new registrations and is 10th in the booming mid-size SUV segment – the largest market in Australia.

The best-selling Holden model is the Colorado pick-up which has found 9633 new homes so far this year, while the Astra small car and Trax small SUV have contributed 4498 and 3110 units to the brand's bottom line respectively.

The management changeover comes after Holden announced last week that around 60 jobs would be cut, while other recent appoints include Marnie Samphier adding Australia's brand strategy to her responsibility as Holden New Zealand general manager of marketing, and former Holden NZ managing director Kristian Aquilina returning to Australia as executive director of marketing.

Is this the right move by Holden to get its sales back on track? Tell us what you think in the comments below.