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Holden appoints first Australian boss in 25 years

Mark Bernhard
Joshua Dowling
CarsGuide

6 Feb 2015 • 4 min read

Holden has appointed its first Australian-born boss since 1990, Mark Bernhard, who is also the company’s sixth boss in six years.

Holden has appointed its first Australian-born boss in 25 years -- and its sixth boss in six years.

Executive Mark Bernhard, who has worked for General Motors in senior in Australia and overseas since 1986, and who helped navigate Holden through the Global Financial Crisis as chief financial officer, will return home after a three-year appointment in China.

There is just one catch: Mr Bernhard won't start his new job until June at the earliest because he is still working in his current role in China.

General Motors’ head of international opertions Stefan Jacoby made the announcement in Sydney at 4:30pm on Friday after addressing Holden’s national dealer conference.

“Mark’s knowledge of GM Holden, our region and GM’s global operations will serve him well in his new role,” Mr Jacoby said in a media statement.

“He will champion the ongoing transition of GM Holden to a national sales company and the repositioning of the Holden brand for long-term growth and profitability.”

A media statement from Mr Berhard said: “It’s wonderful, and quite humbling, to be returning to Holden to lead the company where my career started. I am a Holden man, always have been. Managing Director of this company has always been a dream job.

“While I know that the company is going through a very challenging transition, I also know that it is has a very bright future. I understand that the transition from being a manufacturing company to a National Sales Company is not easy. We need to ensure that those that leave us as a result of this change are treated with dignity, respect and most of all, support. “

As exclusively reported by News Corp Australia last November, Mr Bernhard was the front-runner for the position after the former Holden boss Gerry Dorizas left suddenly, barely six months into the role and after boldly claiming Holden could overtake car giant Toyota by 2020.

Mr Bernhard will oversee Holden’s factory shutdowns in 2017 and transition the company to an importer of cars.

Mr Bernhard began his career at Holden in 1986, when he worked in various finance roles under the last Australian to run Holden, John Bagshaw, who ran the company from 1987 to 1990.

Since then, Holden has been run by General Motors executives from North America, Britain, Canada, and Germany.

The former Holden boss, the Greek-born Mr Dorizas, a former Volkswagen executive, was the first Holden boss in the company’s history hired from outside General Motors.

General Motors initially favoured candidates outside the company to inject “fresh talent” into the business. But the company has reversed its strategy and decided to hire from within for its latest appointment.

Mr Bernhard has risen through the ranks at General Motors after a number of overseas postings.

After working for Holden from 1986 to 1996 he joined General Motors Europe, based in Zurich Switzerland.

In 1998 Mr Bernhard became a finance executive with General Motors’ international operations, based in Detroit, before the role moved to Singapore in 1999.

In July 2002, Mr Bernhard became vice president and CFO of Shanghai-GM.

In May 2007, Mr Bernhard returned to Australia as CFO and executive director of finance for Holden before becoming vice president and chief financial officer of Shanghai GM in Shanghai in November 2011.

Mr Bernhard received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Accounting from Monash University in 1985 and his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Deakin University in 2002.