A statement today said marketing executive director Mark Harland “has decided to leave Holden and General Motors, after a career spanning more than 20 years”. Canadian-born Harland was appointed to the role in November 2016, replacing car industry newcomer Geraldine Davys. According to Holden, he was appointed to “lead Holden’s talented Australian marketing team to continue to redefine the brand and better engage with today’s Australia”.
“Since joining Holden in 2016, Mark has shown incredible passion for the brand. Under his leadership, Holden has established key relationships with Surf Life Saving Australia and Mardi Gras and reaffirmed Holden’s commitment to Holden Motorsport, Collingwood Football Club and the NRL, most notably as naming rights’ sponsor of NRL Holden State of Origin and the inaugural NRL Holden Women’s Premiership League,” it said.
From the outset, Harland faced an uphill challenge. When he joined, Holden was selling almost 8000 cars a month, including the locally made Commodore large car, and bouncing around in the list of the top five brands. Last month, Holden slumped to number 10 on the best brands chart after selling just 5166 vehicles – itself an improvement on the 4689 it had sold the month before. Even March’s 990 Commodore sales – the best result for the nameplate after two solid months of decline – were bittersweet, with around 440 of them the old VF model and 550 of its replacement, the shiny new, fully imported ZB.
“Mark has brought a fresh perspective to Holden during a difficult period of transition. We thank him for his passion and wish him well on his future endeavours,” Holden managing director Mark Bernhard said.
The company didn’t take long to announce his replacement – Holden New Zealand managing director Kristian Aquilina. Aquilina has previous form with Holden after he helped it launch the VT Commodore – the best-selling locally made model in the Commodore’s 39-year history.
Holden has struggled with the transition from Australian manufacturing after the last Zeta-based Commodore was built in October last year. The more premium Astra small hatch, brought in to replace the Australian-built Cruze, has failed to find appeal with buyers in the numbers that the car maker expected, and the Equinox midsize SUV, brought in as a replacement for the cheap Korean-sourced Captiva, has likewise yet to reap showroom dividends. The brand’s record low sales numbers in January were believed to have been artificially inflated by a large proportion of dealer registrations, rumoured to be higher than 40 percent compared with an industry average of around 12 to 14 percent. Holden declined to comment on questions put to it by Wheels.
Aquilina is the fifth marketing director to oversee Holden’s marketing since the departure of longstanding sales boss John Elsworth, who resigned in 2012 to take up a role at Holden shortly before the announcement that the car maker would quit Australian manufacturing. His replacement, Phil Brooks, only lasted two years in the role.