Slow sales have prompted Holden to slash up to $1700 off the price of its Astra hatchback less than two months after it went on sale.
As part of an embarrassing backdown in its quest to compete with the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3 in the premium end of the small car market Holden will also refund the few hundred owners who bought the European-sourced five-door, five-seat hatchback at its original price tag.
The “price rollback” sees the new Opel-built car, that is a key model in Holden’s revival following the brand’s worst ever year of sales, now priced from $21,490 for the entry-level Astra R.
The automatic version of the same car – the model with the most sales potential in a cut-throat end of the market where $1000 can mean the difference between success and failure – has been reduced by $1700. It means the cost of an auto transmission – which more than 90 percent of small car buyers opt for – is now only a $1000 premium across the Holden Astra range.
As part of the realignment the new model will also get smaller side skirts that Holden decided weren’t important to entry-level hatch buyers.
The price reductions mean the 1.4-litre turbo-powered Holden Astra R will be more closely aligned on price to entry-level hatchback versions of the Toyota Corolla ($20,190), Mazda3 ($20,490), Hyundai i30 ($21,450) and Volkswagen Golf ($22,840) that account for about 60 percent of all small car sales.
The Astra RS and RS-V – each powered by a 1.6-litre turbo engine – also benefit from the reductions, priced from $26,240 and $30,740 respectively. Again, it’s the auto versions that are most appealing, dropping $1450 over the original pricing to the point where the auto premium is now $1000.
Despite the drop in prices – which come less than a year ahead of when Holden will shut the doors on its local manufacturing operations that have run since 1948 - Holden denies it got the Astra pricing wrong.
“I don’t think we got the pricing wrong,” said Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard. “It’s not a science, there’s a lot of art in the way you price a vehicle; you look at the competitors, you look at the product that you’ve got … you look at the features that you’ve got … you look at how that product fits in with your overall portfolio.”
Bernhard argues the new pricing – particularly on automatic models – makes the Astra a far more competitive vehicle and one that he describes as “a premium hatch”.
“We felt we’d priced it at the right point,” said Bernhard. “Looking at the feedback that we’ve got from various constituents it did warrant a relook.”
Despite the model realignment Holden has no plans to fit autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to the entry-level model, something fitted to the rival Mazda3 and a possibility for an upcoming update to the Toyota Corolla hatch (Toyota has just added AEB to the Corolla ZR sedan and made it optional on other sedans).
Since the first cars started arriving in the country in November, Holden has shifted just 448 Astras, less than one-tenth the 5376 i30s sold by Hyundai. Even the premium-priced Volkswagen Golf comfortably smashes the Astra, with 2917 sales for the last two months of 2016.
The Astra hatchback finished second in a recent Wheels comparison test behind the Volkswagen Golf. At the launch of the new Astra Wheels and sister publication WhichCar both listed the premium price as a negative for what was otherwise a competitive small car.
Refunds are not common in the car industry but do occasionally happen. Price drops are more common but not popular with current owners due to the impact it has on resale values; Jeep has dropped the price of its slow selling Renegade small SUV twice since it went on sale late in 2015.
It’s not the first time Holden has refunded buyers for a car that has had its price reduced. In the 1980s the Isuzu-sourced Piazza sports car was a sales flop, prompting the company to reimburse the few who risked the turbocharged two-door.
Holden Astra price reductions
|Model||Original/old price*||New price*|
|Holden Astra R manual||$21,990||$21,490|
|Holden Astra R auto||$24,190||$22,490|
|Holden Astra RS manual||$26,490||$26,240|
|Holden Astra RS auto||$28,690||$27,240|
|Holden Astra RS-V manual||$30,990||$30,740|
|Holden Astra RS-V auto||$33,190||$31,740|
* Prices exclude dealer delivery and on-road costs