Australian Muscle Car - - Induction -

The count­down is on to Oc­to­ber 20, 2017 when Holden will turn out the lights on Aus­tralian au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing. This is­sue hits shelves less than 100 days be­fore Holden closes its El­iz­a­beth plant in South Aus­tralia and about 80 be­fore Toy­ota does like­wise at Al­tona, Vic­to­ria on Oc­to­ber 3.

Judg­ing by the num­ber of emails re­ceived here in the mag­a­zine’s of­fice, the loss of this coun­try’s car build­ing in­dus­try is still be­ing ab­sorbed and pro­cessed by long-time read­ers. Of course, many words and phrases re­peat­edly pop up in this cor­re­spon­dence – “what a shame”, “dev­as­tated”, “sad­ness”, “tragedy”, etc.

Yet, what I’ve found in­ter­est­ing as I read through the emails – and I do read ev­ery email sent to am­ced­i­to­ – is the wide va­ri­ety of rea­sons cited by read­ers for the lo­cal car in­dus­try’s demise. There is some com­mon ground, such as our coun­try’s higher labour costs, but every­one seems to have a dif­fer­ent the­ory. What I’ve come to re­alise over the last few months is that most the­o­ries have merit. In other words, there are myr­iad causes be­hind the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ de­ci­sions to call it quits.

I’d like to turn a chunk of my ed­i­to­rial over to AMC reader David Palmer from Mait­land, NSW, as I think his points are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of many oth­ers com­bined. And I also like the fact that David is not blink­ered by his de­vo­tion to one brand, de­spite hav­ing a favourite.

“I am dev­as­tated at the loss of our mo­tor­ing in­dus­try and was not sur­prised Ford jumped out first, even though I am a Ford guy. When Holden an­nounced its clo­sure it shook many of us to the core and I rang politi­cians, Holden deal­ers and their head of­fice. It was ob­vi­ous what this then meant for Toy­ota,” David writes.

“I am an ex-em­ployee – a fit­ter and turner – at the New­cas­tle steel­works and feel I have seen this be­fore a lit­tle bit. I saw the writ­ing on the wall and re­trained into teach­ing.

“I am aware your mag­a­zine is pri­mar­ily a muscle car pub­li­ca­tion, but I think it is im­por­tant for you to do a proper full story to this mod­ern tragedy. It’s im­por­tant to call it how it is, be­ing as the Lib­eral Party (Ab­bott and Hockey) f**ked it for all of us by not pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion for the lo­cal in­dus­try in the man­ner that all other coun­tries that man­u­fac­ture ve­hi­cles sub­sidise or as­sist in dif­fer­ent ways. I think it is re­ally cru­cial that it is clearly stated that Toy­ota did not want to leave, but had no choice. Aus­tralia was the first coun­try out­side of Ja­pan where Toy­ota set up shop, dat­ing back to 1963, and first coun­try where they have closed. Toy­ota made the com­mit­ment to build and ex­port cars from here and com­mit to our coun­try’s man­u­fac­tur­ing (un­like Amer­i­can owned Ford and Holden). Toy­ota had no choice but close to avoid a mas­sive lo­cally-sourced parts sup­ply prob­lem. The pos­i­tive spin and ‘great news’-style an­nounce­ments of clo­sure made by Ford and Holden CEOs made me sick, whilst the Toy­ota’s head hon­cho an­nounce­ment was one of sad­ness, fail­ure and shame.

“I know there are many an­gles to the story, in­clud­ing the free trade agree­ments that are killing other in­dus­tries, too.

“It should also be said that Nis­san was a won­der­ful con­trib­u­tor [to the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try] over many years and to motorsport in this coun­try, from ral­ly­ing in the seven­ties to tin-tops now.

“Lastly I am 45 years old and drive an ev­ery­day fam­ily car, but cher­ish my XC Fal­con coupe, my 1991 EB XR8 and my 1991 Nis­san Sky­line GTS II from Nis­san Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles Di­vi­sion. The lat­ter was built in Mel­bourne by Aus­tralians just be­fore Nis­san closed its fac­tory doors here.”

I can’t dis­agree with David’s thoughts on why lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing died, how­ever I do be­lieve there were many other ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tors. For in­stance, the three man­u­fac­tur­ers were pro­duc­ing the types of cars that few Aussies wanted to buy in this day and age. For­mer buy­ers of these cars now buy Euro­pean lux­ury brands if they can af­ford them (and of­ten when they can’t), off-road 4WDs and soft-road­ers. We are also amid the trend of white col­lar sub­ur­ban­ites buy­ing du­al­cab utes as pseudo fam­ily cars. The last time I looked there were 14 du­al­cab mod­els on the Aussie mar­ket. Ford has done a good job to be the mar­ket leader of this seg­ment, with Toy­ota.

Like so many other as­pects of mod­ern life, the mar­ket has splin­tered into so many cat­e­gories and sub-cat­e­gories that mass pro­duc­tion of any one type of lo­cally-pro­duced car for the do­mes­tic mar­ket was no longer vi­able.

I think Holden backed it­self into a corner over many decades with its na­tion­al­is­tic marketing that in­spired a large slab of non new car-buy­ing bo­gans to get the Holden logo and Brock’s name or face tat­tooed onto their bod­ies, the type of ac­tion that only served to lessen the brand’s ap­peal to the av­er­age Aus­tralians who do ac­tu­ally buy new cars!

Good on Ford for hav­ing a crack into the SUV mar­ket with the Ter­ri­tory, although qual­ity is­sues (I know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence) and Detroit’s ‘One Ford’ pol­icy took away ex­port po­ten­tial and ul­ti­mately killed the model.

If I had more room on this page I’d keep list­ing my the­o­ries...

Luke West Ed­i­tor

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