Will the Australian Car Industry Survive?

I have a friend who works at Holden as an engineer for the chassis/suspension parts of the locally designed and built Commodore. His grandfather (who migrated from Greece of a better life) and father worked at Holden as well – that’s 3 generations, spanning quite a few decades. As we both share a passion for new cars, I don’t believe there’s been a time that we haven’t talked them. Of course, my friend always brags how good the Commodore is, to the point where he once said that the only difference between a Calais and an E-Class Mercedes is that the Mercedes has a more hushed interior (due to the extra effort that the German car maker puts in noise suppression). Of course I totally denied that. But what I’ve always said about Australian made cars, to this day, is in terms of “metal for the money”, they are the best new car available anywhere in the world.

The last couple times we caught up however, we chatted about something a tad more serious – job security. My friend has the belief that it won’t be long before the Australian car manufacturing industry will grind to a halt. What is also of greater concern is that he believes that his skills are not transferable. Which I found a little strange given his profession.

Of course, this has been the rumour for quite some time now, especially for the Ford Falcon, where year-after-year it’s sales numbers have been on a steady decline. But what about what we all thought was Australia’s favourite car – the Commodore. The records aren’t that much better. Yes, it has the been the top seller in the Australian marketplace for around 15 years straight, but this year things are looking a little different.

\"\"( *above data sourced from drive.com.au, article dated July 16, 2011. )

What this information also shows is that if it wasn’t for government and business (via their fleet car offerings), the difference in sales would be much greater. The Australian publics fascination for large, powerful cars is waning. The top 7 cars for private sale are classified as Light/Small cars. People are now switching to smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Manufactures have responded beautifully to this change of heart by offering similar levels of quality, safety and equipment to larger cars, which historically was unheard of.

Now, if there is no demand for large cars, why would you continue to make them? You don’t. You build small cars instead. This is exactly what Holden are doing with the Cruze – what a great decision that was to switch manufacturing from overseas to Australia. I can’t say the same for Ford – it decided to invest in the ageing 6-cylinder Falcon engine instead of building the Focus small car in Australia. Oops.

One of my earlier articles did praise the Australian Motor Industry (re. “Holden Caprice US fav police car”), but did also mention about the prospects of the local car manufacturing industry. Let’s hope that both Holden and Ford start making cars that people want. That way, the Australian motoring public and the Australian Motor Industry will be happy (or should I say it will ensure the survival of the industry in Australia).

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