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Holden boss Dave Buttner resigns after sales slump

The Advertiser 2019-12-02 08:59:00

Holden managing director Dave Buttner has left the company after just 16 months in the role.

The former Toyota executive took charge of Holden last year in the midst of its worst sales decline in history.

He has been replaced in an interim capacity by the brand’s head of commercial operations, Kristian Aquilina.

Mr Aquilina will become the seventh person to lead the company in the past decade.

Mr Buttner’s departure coincides with a horror sales run for the brand. Sales this year are down 26.6 per cent on 2018, which in turn was down 33 per cent on the previous year.


The brand’s marketing share has been shrinking since 2013, when it made the announcement that local manufacturing would cease in 2017. In 2013, it sold 112,059 cars. In the first 10 months of this year it has sold just 37,301.

The once dominant brand now lies outside of the top 10 on the sales chart.

A statement from Holden’s parent company, General Motors, said Mr Buttner was stepping down for personal reasons.

General Motors’ general manager of international operations, Julian Blissett, thanked Mr Buttner for his contribution.

“Dave’s experience and professionalism have been significant assets for Holden since his appointment in 2018,” said Mr Blissett. “Not only has he led critical work, he has developed a highly credentialed leadership team, enabling an orderly transition.”

He said Mr Aquilina was well placed to lead the company through “an orderly leadership succession”.

“Kristian has previously served as managing director of Holden New Zealand from 2015 to mid-2018, before returning to Australia to lead Marketing. Earlier this year he was promoted to Executive Director Sales, Marketing and Aftersales. With more than 22 years in the company, he has the experience, the leadership qualities and the deep understanding of the business and the market to lead GM Holden at this important time.”

Questions have been raised about Holden’s future in Australia after General Motors pulled out of Europe and sold its subsidiary brands Opel and Vauxhall to France’s Peugeot-Citroen alliance.

The brand has reduced its dealership presence in Australia in line with falling demand but many pundits believe it needs further rationalisation given the nature of its sales slump.

Mr Buttner said the brand needs to focus on “getting onto the consideration list for SUV and LCV (ute) buyers in Australia and New Zealand”.

“We have made significant progress in getting the fundamentals right,” Mr Buttner said.

“Now is the right time for me to depart the business, with a strong team in place, to be led by Kristian.”

Aquilina paid tribute to Buttner’s work to reform Holden, while acknowledging “there is still a lot of work to do”.

“My focus is on providing continuity around the execution of our plans, ensuring the team at Holden, including dealers and partners, continue to focus on our customers,” he said.

Originally published as Holden boss quits as sales slump