Holden boss Mark Bernhard. Picture: Aaron Francis.
Holden boss Mark Bernhard. Picture: Aaron Francis.

Former Toyota boss to to replace Holden chief Mark Bernhard

THE executive who helped drive Toyota to 15 years of dominance in Australia is about to become the new boss of Holden - as General Motors attempts to reverse a massive sales slide since the end of local manufacturing.

Former Toyota Australia boss Dave Buttner will replace Holden managing director Mark Bernhard from next month, a move likely to send shockwaves through the car industry.

Mr Buttner worked at Ford before embarking on a 30-year career with Toyota in 1987.

He eventually rose through the ranks to become the President of Toyota Australia in 2014, the first non-Japanese executive to be appointed in that role.

Former Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner will be the new boss of Holden starting in August. Picture: Supplied.
Former Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner will be the new boss of Holden starting in August. Picture: Supplied.

Mr Buttner left Toyota after overseeing the closure of the Camry factory in Melbourne last year, just weeks before Holden's factory shutdown.

He will begin as chairman and managing director of GM Holden next month.

"I am honoured and energised by this incredible opportunity to lead Holden, a company which is part of the fabric of our country," Mr Buttner said.

"I look forward to working with our people, our dealers and our partners to grow our business and get more and more Australian and New Zealand drivers behind the wheel of more and more Holdens."

Toyota overtook Holden as Australia's favourite brand in 2003.

Holden has since slipped to fifth place in the sales race and earlier this year posted its weakest monthly tally since 1948, when the company was founded.

In a media statement GM executive vice president and president of GM International Barry Engle said: "Dave's proven track record and understanding of Holden's markets - and the company's potential in those markets - makes him the right leader for this next phase in the evolution of the business".

"GM's most senior leadership (in Detroit) strongly believe that we have a rare jewel in Holden, an iconic Australian brand that understands the needs of Australian and New Zealand drivers," said Mr Engel.

"Dave is an outstanding leader with a peerless record of success in Australia and New Zealand. Holden will have a strong future under Dave's leadership."

The Detroit executive thanked Mr Bernhard for more than three decades of service to General Motors and Holden.

"As Mark hands over the reins of Holden, I want to recognise all of his contributions over his career at GM. I appreciate his passion and commitment to Holden during his tenure as Chairman and Managing Director and throughout his career," Mr Engle said in a media statement.

"Holden is where it all started for me," said Bernhard. "It has been an honour to lead Holden as we laid the foundation for a new future of this iconic Australian company."

Mr Buttner will be Holden's seventh boss in 10 years after Mr Bernhard announced his retirement from General Motors, ending 32 years of service with the global car giant.

Mr Bernhard was the first Australian boss of Holden in 25 years when appointed three years ago.

While not involved in the decision to shut the Melbourne engine factory and Adelaide car assembly line, Mr Bernhard oversaw the closure of Holden's manufacturing operations and the axing of 2500 jobs.

Mr Bernhard's departure comes a few months after Holden reported its lowest monthly sales and smallest market share since 1948, when the brand was established as an Australian division of General Motors.

Mark Bernhard was the first Australian to run Holden in 25 years. Picture: Stuart McEvoy.
Mark Bernhard was the first Australian to run Holden in 25 years. Picture: Stuart McEvoy.

Mr Bernhard joined Holden in 1986 before being promoted to GM Europe in 1996 and going on to hold a series of senior financial executive roles in Detroit and Asia.

He returned to Australia in 2007 as CFO and executive director of finance for Holden and helped keep the brand afloat during the Global Financial Crisis before becoming vice president and CFO of Shanghai GM in 2011.

Mr Bernhard returned to Australia to lead Holden in July 2015, six months after the company announced it would shut its local manufacturing operations in 2017.

Holden boss Mark Bernhard (left) and manufacturing boss Richard Phillips (right) at the Holden Dream Cruise one week before the Elizabeth factory shutdown in 2017. Photo: Joshua Dowling.
Holden boss Mark Bernhard (left) and manufacturing boss Richard Phillips (right) at the Holden Dream Cruise one week before the Elizabeth factory shutdown in 2017. Photo: Joshua Dowling.

The appointment of one of GM's highest ranking Australians to run Holden was intended to give the company stability during its transition from a manufacturer to a vehicle importer.

Before Mr Bernhard's appointment Holden had five bosses in seven years, three of which remained in the role for a little more than six months.

 

Holden bosses: a recent history

John Bagshaw (Australia) 1987 to 1990

Bill Hamel (USA) 1990 to 1997

Jim Wiemels (USA) 1997 to 1999

Peter Hanenberger (Germany) 1999 to 2003

Denny Mooney (USA) January 2004 to July 2007

Chris Gubbey (UK) August 2007 to February 2008

Mark Reuss (USA) February 2008 to August 2009

Alan Batey (UK) September 2009 to March 2010

Mike Devereux (UK born, raised in Canada) March 2010 to December 2013

Gerry Dorizas (Greece) March 2014 to October 2014

Mark Bernhard (Australia) July 2015 to July 2018

Dave Buttner (Australia) August 2018

 

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling



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