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Holden looks to SUVs to stop sales slide

Holden is pinning its hopes on SUV sales in 2019, despite the fact its models floundered in 2018 where rivals boomed.

Holden will put considerably more emphasis on its range of SUVs in a move to arrest a sales slide that has seen the company fall to record lows.

The company held what it labelled an ‘SUV day' for media this week, ahead of a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign highlighting each of the SUVs Holden sells which will be rolled out over the coming weeks and months.

That line-up starts off at the Trax, with the Equinox slotting in above it. For those who don't quite want to go all the way into SUV territory there's the Tourer, a high-riding wagon version of the Commodore/Calais, and the company offers a choice of two seven-seaters: the rugged Trailblazer (based on the Colorado ute) and the US-built Acadia (sold as a GMC in North America).

  • Holden's SUV line-up starts off with the Trax. Holden's SUV line-up starts off with the Trax.
  • The Equinox slots in above the Trax. The Equinox slots in above the Trax.
  • The Tourer is a high-riding wagon version of the Commodore/Calais. The Tourer is a high-riding wagon version of the Commodore/Calais.
  • Holden offers a choice of two seven-seaters, including the rugged Trailblazer. Holden offers a choice of two seven-seaters, including the rugged Trailblazer.
  • The US-built Acadia is the other seven-seater in the line up. The US-built Acadia is the other seven-seater in the line up.

Holden chairman and managing director, Dave Buttner, said the company is fully aware that it hasn't been selling enough of its SUVs to date, and asserted his hopes that 2019 will be the year of the SUV for Holden.

"As you know, in Australia for year after year after year, Holden was known for its passenger vehicles. And as we've seen the decline of the passenger car market over the last few years – that's not just a trend in our domestic market, but more widely – we've seen the passenger segment decline and the SUV segment grow.

"We have to ensure that customers in both Australia and New Zealand are aware of the portfolio of the products that we have to meet the market segmentation as it stands today," said Mr Buttner.

"The key thing is to create awareness – what does Holden sell? – which then leads to consideration, so the customer will consider buying a Holden as their next car, which of course then leads to inquiry at the dealership.

"We're unashamedly focusing on our SUV and LCV portfolio. It's where the market is, and of course they are more profitable product lines than others we have," he said.

Despite that focus, Mr Buttner said Holden's remaining passenger car offerings – the Astra and Commodore – aren't under threat.

  • Holden undoubtedly needs its SUV range to fire in 2019. Holden undoubtedly needs its SUV range to fire in 2019.
  • The Equinox managed 4999 sales in its first full year on sale. The Equinox managed 4999 sales in its first full year on sale.
  • For those who don't quite want to go all the way into SUV territory there's the Tourer. For those who don't quite want to go all the way into SUV territory there's the Tourer.
  • The Trailblazer is based on the Colorado ute. The Trailblazer is based on the Colorado ute.
  • The seven-seater Acadia only arrived late in 2018. The seven-seater Acadia only arrived late in 2018.

Holden undoubtedly needs its SUV range to fire in 2019.

For context, last year the brand managed 5433 sales of the Trax – which was down 27.5 per cent in a segment of the market that rose 17.2 per cent.

The Equinox managed 4999 sales in its first full year on sale, which was just 2.9 per cent of the medium SUV segment, which tallied 174,259. The Equinox was outsold by the runout Captiva, which tallied 5100 units in its final year on sale.

The Acadia only arrived late in 2018, so its sales were negligible at best, where the Colorado ute-based Trailblazer – which has been on the market for several years following a name change from Colorado 7 back in late 2016 – saw just 2606 sales, a drop of 21.1 per cent on the previous year.

Mr Buttner is confident the new ad campaign will help right the ship when it comes to Holden SUV sales in Australia.

"We've got to go step by step. We've got to focus on 2019 – I really see this as being a pivotal, watershed year. We will go back to our basics, get the fundamentals right, land the portfolio of products that we have, stabilise the business, and then we'll worry about where we go with share after that.

"We said to our dealers very transparently, very honestly on Friday, we have to work together to get this year right."

Will Holden's SUV strategy help it stay afloat? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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