A dip in Commodore sales has not upset Holden – but it is a bit miffed about how it has been translated.
REITERATION from Holden that the replacement for the VFII Commodore will be here as soon as the present model ends production has come as the current offer’s popularity is questioned.
Holden New Zealand has reacted testily to a magazine’s on-line report that highlights how VFII registrations have slumped by 61 percent to date this year.
Ed Finn, corporate affairs general manager for the Auckland-domiciled distributor, does not dispute data that shows a car that was No.3 on the top 15 nameplates at the start of the year, with 366 sold in January, was now at the bottom of that register, with just 141 accounted for in July.
However, he claims Commodore’s fall is less about declining popularity and more to do with market trend. This would have been obvious had the counts for this year been weighed against comparable monthly tallies for 2015, he said.
“It would be more representative to compare this year with last year. More often than not, the year starts with a lot of rental volume for different fleets that are putting new vehicles on for the new calendar year.
“So, generally speaking, this first quarter is a bigger quarter. More often than not a vehicle will reflect a decline in sales volume (from beyond then) and that is being reflected in those numbers.”
MotoringNetwork undertook that exercise using data provided by the Motor Industry Association, which represents new vehicle distributors, sourced from Government. This suggests Finn is correct in suggesting a historic trend exists; 453 Commodores were registered in January of 2015 and just 191 in July of last year. Of course, is it still also obvious that fewer VFIIs were sold this year than last, from 1613 to 1407.
The dwindling demand for large cars is hardly new and, though Commodore is easily the most popular car within this embattled breed, it would be illogical for it not to feel the impact of the consumer shift toward like-sized, priced and equipped sports utilities.
Finn said he was unsure what percentage share of the large car market Commodore now holds, but there was no concern within Holden NZ that the VFII was in trouble or that it would last the distance until changeover to the new Commodore, expected to occur around November of 2017.
“Will the current Commodore stay on sale? Absolutely.
As for any concern about the sales counts? “Well, it’s not something that has happened overnight. There’s been a gradual shift from large passenger cars across the whole of the market.
“We are actually still in a really strong position, we have an expanding model portfolio and we are finding favour in a lot of other models in our range.”
Other Holden models were picking up sales pace, the new Spark minicar and the Colorado utility – which is on runout in preparation for a freshened range arriving in September – being two good examples.
“Whilst certainly there is a decline in one area of the market, overall we are in a really strong position to capitalise in other areas.”
Finn demurred from providing any insight to what Holden NZ is planning for current Commodore in its final year, in respect to special and added editions. At present the SV6 sedan is the top customer pick, achieving one third of year-to-date volume.
He was also cautious when asked if there was potential that the next Commodore, which is expected to be a localised version of the new-generation Opel Insignia, will be here before the VFII ends its sale period.
Last week Holden Australia boss Mark Bernhard reiterated to top Australian media comment that he and Holden New Zealand managing director Kristian Aquilina had told MotoringNetwork on March 3 – namely, that transition from the Australian-manufactured large car to the new one will be seamless.
Aquilina said back then that the intent was to have the next Commodore on sale as soon as the current one departs, in part because this times with the important contract the brand has maintained with police in respect to supplying Commodore as a front-line police car in its new form.
NZ police have been Commodore’s most loyal customer for many years and Holden NZ has previously said that the Government procurement agency responsible for buying police cars has been briefed about the next Commodore because the latest tender process, conducted last year and won by Holden, was to supply cars into a period stretching beyond when VF falls out of production.
“The current Commodore is one of many cars that they buy from us, but it is the main one,” Aquilina said in March. “We had to give them some assurance with what was to follow. They are comfortable with the information they have received so far.”
Last week Bernhard said the new Commodore will “follow on like the next generation of any normal product.
“We will have an orderly runout of the current generation of Commodore and lead us into the next generation of Commodore.”
Leading up to the end of manufacturing in Australia, Bernhard told Australian media the company would neither follow what Ford has done in the paring down of derivatives like the ute, nor stockpile vehicles to sell well into the following year.
“The current plan is to continue to build all the derivatives all the way through,” Mr Bernhard is reported to have said. “If customer demand changes, obviously we will need to change those plans, but at this stage, we’ll see everything through – V6, V8, and each of the derivatives.”
Along with the Commodore sedan, utility and Sportwagon, Holden builds the long-wheelbase Caprice, as well as the Cruze small car. The latter’s production will be wound down on October 7 – the same day Ford Australia pulls the plug on local manufacturing.
Holden also plans to close its Port Melbourne engine plant by the end of the year, stockpiling V6 engines for use in the final local Commodore and derivatives in 2017.
Holden continues to avoid discussing the new Commodore and that stance is not expected to alter for a while.