HOLDEN NZ WANTS HASHTAGS AND PRICE TAGS TO ATTRACT BUYERS TO SPARK
Holden New Zealand is hoping that the Spark compact hatchback will ignite interest with new customers to the brand. The fourth generation Spark was unveiled at last year’s New York motor show by Holden’s parent company, General Motors, and was the first all-new vehicle for the company since the GFC.
The Spark has a new platform, new body and a new 1.4-litre engine, plus updates in-car connectivity with the introduction of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on a large touchscreen.
Holden used to have the Barina Spark in our market but have decided to revitalise the micro car segment in New Zealand by instead having the standalone Spark and the Barina, which is slighter bigger than the newcomer.
The all-new Spark has a sleek exterior appearance thanks to the double front grille, a lower profile due to a long wheelbase, thinner pillars and a reduction in height. The wheels are pushed to the edge of the fenders to give it a longer look.
The Spark is 3595mm long, 1595mm wide and 1475mm high with a wheelbase of 2385mm and will compete against the popular Mitsubishi Mirage and Nissan Micra.
But those two models attract, let’s be honest, an older buyer, and Holden NZ is targeting the grandkids of those owners with the use of hashtags rather than price tags when it comes to the marketing of the Spark.
The company reckons the new buyers of the Spark will be Millennials (or parents of Millennials) thanks to the styling of the car, safety features and connectivity.
Like Kia NZ, Holden has pegged the trend of Kiwis under 30 buying new vehicles due to the housing crisis where home ownership is unattainable but a new car is affordable.
The Spark starts at $16,490 for the LS manual, $17,990 for the LS CVT automatic and $19,990 for the top-spec LT CVT.
I reckon the LT will be the big-seller for the company especially over the entry model LS because how many 20-somethings can drive a stick?
But with the new customers to the brand, come new training for sales staff, according to Holden NZ’s marketing manager, Marnie Samphier.
“A lot of work went around the launch of the Spark with the training of the sales staff. We are in it for the long haul,” said Samphier.
“We did a lot of research on the Millennials and showed it to the sales staff, and talked about their change in processes in dealerships.
“It doesn’t stop there. There is a big programme to attract younger sales people to Holden dealerships, and it’s a challenge for the whole industry.”
The Spark goes on sale next month and Holden NZ had its first media drive recently. Driven took part in the exclusive drive in the LT from Dunedin to nearby Moeraki and back.
Plugging in my iPhone, I used CarPlay on the 7in touchscreen to get directions to the famous beach 1 hours out of Dunedin.
The standard rear-view camera and park assist in the LS was helpful for manoeuvering out of the busy Holden dealership, before heading on the city roads then onto the open road.
I was impressed with the output from the 1.4-litre that produces 73kW of power and 124Nm of torque especially on a passing lane filled with tourists.
But what struck me, nearly literally, was the handing of the Spark, which had been calibrated in Australia for our conditions.
When a passenger from the vehicle in front of me threw a large bottle out of the window, I had to swerve at more than 100km/h to avoid the debris, and the micro car didn’t hesitate with a hard right turn before straightening, all while overtaking. The move was so smooth that my passenger — a Holden NZ employee — didn’t flinch (or scream).
The Spark is pegged as city car, but the open-road capability was notable. When we encountered high winds on the drive back into Dunedin, I had to engage overdrive to get the revs up when overtaking. Back in the city, the Spark met stop-start traffic on the way to the famous train station where the hatch was to feature on its own runway for Dunedin’s iD Fashion Week where Holden New Zealand was hoping that the guests to the event would be impressed with its car as they were with the clothing on show.