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"There always will be comments about Holden": Chevrolet and GMSV bosses on how General Motors fits into a post-Holden Australia

General Motors has some work to do if its to completely win Australians’ hearts back, but its bosses are optimistic.

It’s been more than four years since February 2020 when Holden announced it would shut its doors in Australia, and for Lion-badged die-hards there’s still some hurt - but General Motors is rebuilding, and there’s a lot of optimism around the future.

CarsGuide was invited to join General Motors Vice President of Global Chevrolet Scott Bell on his first tour of one of the brand’s facilities where Silverado utes are turned into right-hand drive, Aussie-ready workhorses.

Despite being in Australia on a personal holiday to ride in the 1000km ‘Ride for Lily’ charity bike ride from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Bell was happy to join Managing Director of GM Australia and New Zealand Jess Bala in discussing the importance of Australia in the portfolio of General Motors and Chevrolet.

Bell’s overarching view on the matter is: “Any time that we can be in a market is a good thing for us around the globe.”

His statement is backed up by the immense amount of work going into converting US-spec Silverados to RHD cars on the other side of the wall from where he’s speaking.

But Bell isn’t the only one in the top Brass at GM with a soft spot for Australia - Jess Bala is herself a Holden alumni, and mentioned the likes of President of General Motors Mark Reuss (once Holden’s Managing Director) and Melbourne-born Vice President of Global Design Mike Simcoe who were both integral to Holden in their time with the brand.

Managing Director of GM Australia and New Zealand Jess Bala and General Motors Vice President of Global Chevrolet Scott Bell pictured together.

“Holden was a huge part of Australian culture here right? So there's still an amazing Holden following and a lot of passion there in a really good way,” Bala told CarsGuide.

Bala has spent the last decade working in Detroit for GM after having started her career with Holden in the late 2000s. The combination of experience locally and in GM’s HQ had led to her being appointed Managing Director of GM Australia and New Zealand, heading up operations for GMSV.

She said General Motors isn’t trying to replicate what Holden had in Australia, instead looking for ‘gaps’ in the market to make specific offerings to (admittedly) smaller numbers of customers

It’s been more than four years since February 2020 when Holden announced it would shut its doors in Australia.

“When you look at what we sell right now with Silverados and Corvettes, you know, we've announced Yukon coming next year. They're very, very different vehicles to what we sold when we were Holden, you know, Commodores, Captiva etc. We have a completely different offering. 

“So I think people are really looking at that and looking at the vehicles that we're offering and we're drawing in completely new buyers.

“We know that our Silverado buyers, we've got some that were in Holden products before and some that have come we've conquested from the competition because of the vehicle that we bring in, same with Corvette. There was nothing else - is nothing else - like Corvette on the market today.

Holden Commodores pictured.

“So yes, there's still comments obviously, there always will be comments about Holden, but I think people have moved past and realise what we're doing,” Bala said.

“And obviously now we've also announced Cadillac, and we just show that we're growing here and it shows that GM is committed to Australia, New Zealand and we're bringing in new brands, new vehicles, to give the customers here what they need.”

Scott Bell reiterated that as well as the auto giant’s customer base changing in Australia, it’s also shifting globally as products change to suit the times.

Cadillac Celestiq pictured.

His example of the feedback initially given for the current Corvette Stingray versus the eventual immense popularity of the model rings true in Australia too.

“You know, I can't speak specifically to the Australian customer but from what we were used to in markets where we've had a great presence with Corvette.

Chevrolet Corvette pictured. (Image: Joel Strickland)

“We've attracted a younger buyer, a far more sophisticated, diverse buyer than we've ever had in Corvette, so this car has changed our positioning with Corvette for good.

“We're five years into the lifecycle and we're still building wait lists.”

Chris Thompson
Racing video games, car-spotting on road trips, and helping wash the family VL Calais Turbo as a kid were all early indicators that an interest in cars would stay present in Chris’ life, but loading up his 1990 VW Golf GTI Mk2 and moving from hometown Brisbane to work in automotive publishing in Melbourne ensured cars would be a constant. With a few years as MOTOR Magazine’s first digital journalist under his belt, followed by a stint as a staff journalist for Wheels Magazine, Chris’ career already speaks to a passion for anything with four wheels, especially the 1989 Mazda MX-5 he currently owns. From spending entire weeks dissecting the dynamic abilities of sports cars to weighing up the practical options for car buyers from all walks of life, Chris’ love for writing and talking about cars means if you’ve got a motoring question, he can give you an answer.
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