Tough month for ZB, but Holden NZ staunch

After a strong start in March, the Commodore has been hit by a weak second month of sale – what’s Holden NZ’s reaction?


KIWI interest in the new Commodore dropped savagely last month, however the distributor remains unbowed.

Holden NZ boss Kristian Aquilina, who as well as heading the brand here is now overseeing Holden marketing in Australia in a bid to restore consumer faith, remains positive about the car’s New Zealand future, expressing believe this market is on board.

“The reception is very good.”

His comment was sought in response to the ZB achieving just 102 registrations last month, the model’s worst performance in years and presumably a rude shock to Holden New Zealand.

The total was less than one third the accrual for March, the first month of sale yet also a transition period from the outgoing VF2.

Holden NZ put 310 cars into homes then, saying most were ZBs. That was enough to make Commodore the country’s best-selling passenger model.

The April tally – comprising 79 hatchbacks and 23 sportwagons – appears to have been wholly ZB.

The count that was down on April of 2017 and 2016, when Commodore achieved 161 and 174 registrations respectively.

The models that were next best sellers to ZB in March, Toyota Corolla and Mazda CX-5, overtook in April.

The ZB model, which comes from Opel in Germany and avails in four-wheel-drive V6 form and front-drive four-cylinder formats, has not been doing well in Australia, where it launched four weeks ahead of New Zealand.


Its volume for last month was 60 percent down on April 2017, a key factor in the total March count for Holden being the worst single month for the brand since it established back in the early 1950s.

The poor reception, and general slump in Holden performance, saw a shock move with announcement on April 9 that the national sales and marketing job was being picked up, with immediate effect, by Aquilina, a Melbournite living in Auckland.

He has been splitting his duties between Australia and New Zealand since and was overseas when contacted for this story.

Describing the response from this country to the car as “remarkable”, he also offered ‘verbatim’ comment from an internal survey conducted by Holden NZ since ZB came in.

One said “brilliant, best Commodore yet” and another commented “I have owned a Commodore for 30 years and had not expected this car to be as good as it is.”

A third said it was hard to believe the car kept improving so much. “Great to drive … handles the corners amazingly well.” That respondent was awaiting a Calais V “my seventh new Commodore.”

Aqulina said these responses cement believes the car will pick up pace. However, he acknowledged that customers were having to deal with a product that delivered extensive change.

“Given the extent of the change from previous generations of Commodore, people need will to assess this car before automatically jumping into their next one.”

In response to being asked if he was prepared to offer thought on how May night pan out, Aquilina said fleet interest was building.

“We are seeing fantastic business fleet interest building and the feedback we are getting from new Holden customers and Commodore loyalists is nothing short of exceptional. 

“I'm very positive about the way New Zealanders have taken to new Commodore and once our new advertising campaign kicks off later this month, more Kiwis will see what new Commodore has to offer.” 

Commodore achieved just 587 sales throughout Australia in April, the lowest monthly count ever for that nameplate there in its 40-year history. That count was thought to include some residual VF2 stock.

Commodore sales have hovered historical Australia market lows at under 1000 units per month in its three months of availability there.