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Former Holden boss Mike Devereux poised to kill the Commodore name – after saying he would save it.
Holden is poised to kill the Commodore name once local production comes to an end in 2017 -- and the man in charge of the decision is the same person who vowed to save it: former Holden boss Mike Devereux. The decision comes as the next generation large car to replace the Commodore is expected to come from Europe not China.
Holden is pleading with General Motors executives to keep the Commodore name because it is so iconic, but the request has fallen on deaf ears.
Holden is now going to be forced to adopt a global name for the car that will replace the Commodore which, in a bizarre twist, will come from the same place the Commodore originated in 1978: Opel in Germany.
News Corp Australia has been told that Holden’s sales and marketing executive Phil Brook has been pleading with his former boss, Mr Devereux, who is now the vice president of sales and marketing at General Motors’ international operations, based in Singapore.
In the past two months Mr Brook is understood to have repeatedly asked Mr Devereux for his “support”, allegedly saying “I need the Commodore name to help sell this car”.
Mr Brook has denied making these comments. He told News Corp Australia it was “absolute rubbish, no decision has been made, we’ve got plenty of time to make those calls.”
However, Mr Brook did admit the Commodore nameplate is “up for discussion”.
News Corp Australia can reveal Mr Brook flew to Europe last month to view early versions of the General Motors’ new global large car, after which he reportedly begged his former boss to reconsider the use of the Commodore name.
The burial of the Commodore name alongside the Falcon nameplate, one of the longest running in the automotive world, is likely to be viewed by some Holden fans as a betrayal.
But others may welcome the move given that every car that has worn the Commodore badge so far was an Australian-made rear-wheel-drive sedan, whereas the next model will be a foreign-made front-wheel-drive sedan.
In February 2013, at the media preview of the Commodore, Mr Devereux told the media scrum: “A lot of folks have been speculating about whether this is the last Commodore … well I can categorically tell you we have already begun working on the Commodore that comes after this one.”
The speculation about the future of the Commodore name follows strong denials that the famous Holden badge may be replaced by the Chevrolet logo.
A Holden insider told News Corp Australia last year the switch to Chevrolet could happen if General Motors believes the Holden brand image has been damaged by the shutdown of its factories.
“There is no emotion in this,” the insider said. “It will all come down to money. If General Motors thinks sales will go down because the Holden brand is on the nose, then they will switch it to Chevrolet.”
Marketing experts say it would cost between $500,000 and $1 million to rebrand each of Holden’s 233 dealerships nationwide, and that General Motors would likely foot half the bill for each showroom, forcing Holden dealers to pick up the rest of the tab or lose the franchise.
One Holden insider revealed that the company has been forced to conduct exhaustive research with Australian car buyers to prove the case to Detroit that the Holden brand is worth saving.
“The amount of money we’ve spent trying to defend the Holden brand to Detroit is ridiculous,” the insider said.
“But when executives from North America come out to Australia, they take photos of Chevrolet badges that people have fitted to their Holden (cars), and use that against us.”
At the time of the factory shutdown announcement last December, Mr Devereux said: “Holden is committed to this country … we expect we will be a thriving brand in this country for many years to come.”
New Holden boss Gerry Dorizas said in April: “the Holden brand is here to stay”. But he made no comment about the future of the Commodore badge at the time.
The original Holden “lion and stone wheel” logo was created by sculptor Rayner Hoff in 1928, before GM brought the saddlery turned body builder in 1948.
The logo was a tribute to the prehistoric fable that lions rolling stones led to the invention of the wheel.
The Holden lion badge has changed only three times since 1928: in 1948 at the launch of the first General Motors Holden car, in 1972 to coincide with the launch of the HQ Kingswood, (which went on to become the biggest selling Holden of all time), and in 1994 as Holden ramped up its marketing push for the Commodore to reclaim top-seller status from the Ford Falcon.