View Full Version : Former HSV executive to tip a bucket on Holden

14th December 2012, 04:55 AM
Former executive to tip a bucket on Holden

Peter McKay

John Crennan.

Local motor industry mover and shaker John Crennan, the former Holden executive who headed up Holden Special Vehicles for its first two decades, is writing a tell-all memoir that promises to explain the brand's fall from grace in recent years.

His book, 50 Years of Holden – sub-titled People, Personalities, Politics and Poor Performances – is, he says, about 70 per cent finished and will be published next year.

“Like the way I work, I don't sit on the fence!” Crennan declares.

Starting in December 1962 at a weekly stipend of £10 and 15 shillings he embarked on a 10-year journey from the mail room to the executive dining room.

Marking the 50 years since he joined Holden, Crennan has revealed many of the contentious motor industry and motor sporting topics he will cover in his book.

Current Holden executives are not going to enjoy Crennan's assessment of the present management team. He will answer the question why Holden went from having so many heavyweight, highly talented executives in its ranks in Crennan's first 25 years, to so few in the past 25.

“I've listed 50 reasons why Holden dropped from nearly 50 per cent market share when I started 50 years ago to approximately 10 per cent now, and how the Holden brand got damaged along the way,” he says.

Crennan has been researching meticulously, rifling through his detailed diaries and records. He suggests Holden created too much confusion with dealers and customers with an avalanche of more than 150 products and brands. He has counted 53 product badges alone.

Crennan says he will be listing his Top 10 "most respected people" in the business, and why they made an impact.

John Bagshaw, the first Australian-born managing director of Holden, and John Rock, the ebullient US-born salesman, will be acknowledged as among the most exciting, inspiring and successful auto executives in Australia of the past 50 years.

Crennan, who was in the dress-circle seats when Peter Brock's bizarre "energy polariser" (a device made from crystals and magnets) brought his hugely profitable racing and road-car association with Holden to a smouldering end in 1987, insists he'll be adding more spice to the story of the collapse, and the race icon's subsequent renaissance eight years later.

Crennan will describe the task of setting up and then consolidating the HSV and HRT brands, at the same time as managing Holden politics and the eternal juggling act with the cheaper SS V8. There was the associated bid for track supremacy which landed HRT eight Australian V8 racing championships.

There's a suggestion of "told you so" sadness when Crennan notes that over the past five years the "special" seems to have gone from HSV, while the HRT has failed to win a single title.

For much of Crennan's 23-year association with Tom Walkinshaw and his companies, the pair seemed to bond as a mutual admiration society. It wasn't quite like that and Crennan will tell stories about "Good Tom", "Bad Tom" and "Enigmatic Tom".

There were fun and games and crises with Brock, Craig Lowndes, Wayne Gardner,Win Percy – HRT drivers all – and Peter Hanenberger, who helped create Radial Tuned Suspension in the late 1970s and then who returned in 1999 as Holden boss.

Part of Crennan's responsibilities as boss of HSV/HRT was to generate sponsorship for the race team – more than $100 million all told – while micromanaging the expectations of both the factory and commercial partners.

He'll go through the events and issues leading to the sensational Walkinshaw/TWR receivership in England and Australia in February 2003.

The book will also look at the unseemly Mark Skaife/Tom Walkinshaw HRT ownership skirmish which ended with the Scot back in control.

An chapter tentatively called "Girlfriends, Partners, Wives, Mums and Dads in Motorsport – Oh Boy!" – sounds tempting.

Crennan, the current chief executive of Kelly Racing, doesn't end his recollections and observations without some crystal-balling about his team and its defection from Holden to Nissan.

He boldly predicts Todd and Rick Kelly's race team will emerge over the next 10 years as the powerhouse of Australian motor sport and specialist niche automotive business enterprises. Do we sense another specialist vehicle operation in the pipeline? Nissan-based perhaps?


14th December 2012, 07:34 AM
Should be an interesting read.
He might be a tad biassed I the jerky comment though!

14th December 2012, 01:47 PM
I dont like the guy but he's a clever business man. If anyone can make Nissans and the Kelly's image sucessful in motorsport in this country its him.

project 064
14th December 2012, 08:18 PM
I'm with you WASP, I hope the stories about Mr P Brock RIP, are pleasant & respectful. Mr Lowndes was not sending Christmas cards to Mr Crennan last I heard.:rolleyes:

15th December 2012, 10:07 AM
Yep clever - lets make a buck from my "dump on them" who provided all he needed to be succesful - certain pollies do well with copious amounts of money :p

15th December 2012, 01:12 PM
He's a clever little schemer - has always known how to play the "politics" to get HIS way. I can't stand him and wish him and Kelly Sisters nothing but egg on their faces.

Geez, some days I'm just a grumpy ol man!

15th December 2012, 10:58 PM
^^^ lol