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Q&A With Holden Chariman Denny Mooney

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Times are tough at the red lion. Holden has seen Commodore sales slump this year, it has taken an all-round beating from Toyota in showrooms and has been forced to call an early finish to the Monaro.

It's also had to cut its engineering workforce at Fishermans Bend and has just announced 1400 redundancies after cancelling the third shift at its assembly plant in Adelaide.
It is almost certain to lose its overseas business for the Pontiac GTO, has been forced to cut-price compact cars from South Korea, and has yet to get anything but the VE Commodore sedan approved for sales beyond 2006.

Even the once-unbeatable Holden Racing Team has taken a kicking.

It looks bleak, and some people even joked a fortnight ago that the fire at its engine factory in Melbourne was a self-inflicted wound.

The man who has the blowtorch on his belly is Denny Mooney, the American executive who sits in the big office at GM Holden's shiny new headquarters.






He followed the charismatic Peter Hanenberger into the top job at Holden after the turbocharged German engineer drove the company through its biggest growth period in recent history.

Everything looked good when Hanenberger retired, but now Mooney is steering a troubled ship and plugging leaks.

But the 59-year-old engineer refuses to get bogged down or deflated, even when faced with tough questions this week.

How are things at Holden?

Things are pretty difficult right now.

Anytime you make an announcement like we made on the third shift is difficult for everybody. Not just the people at the plant and their families. Everyone wonders what's going on in the business and the future of the business.

It's not unlike what's going on in the auto business worldwide. I tell people that if they don't like cars and you don't like competition, they might not want to be in the auto business.

Is it a crisis?

No, no, it's not a crisis.

It's something we need to do. I call it "right sizing" the business.

The reality is that a two-shift operation in Adelaide is much more appropriate for our demand. I would much rather be capacity constrained than build too many cars.

Our product development operation is strong and has lots of work into the future. We are working on lots of new concepts in vehicles, so we still have a lot of work on our platter.

Even though times are tight, we're still making money.

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