Plea to rescue Aussie industry
Locally made cars are struggling to match the sale of imports, writes Stuart Innes
THAILAND and South Korea have joined Japan as countries each selling more new vehicles in Australia than Australian-made cars, sparking a warning that a strategy is needed to save the Australian car manufacturing industry.
Also, the climbing dominance of imported cars compared with Australianmade cars has provoked a slap on the face to the Federal Government for making a ‘‘big mistake’’ in a free-trade agreement with Thailand.
For some years, Japan has been the only country to sell more of its cars in Australia than Australian cars.
But the latest VFACTS new vehicle sales figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries shows that this year Thailand and South Korea have each also surged ahead of Australian-built cars, which have fallen in their share of the market.
In the first 10 months this year, cars made in Japan have won 296,555 sales in Australia, from South Korea’s 137,914 and Thailand’s 135,618. Cars sold in Australia made in Australia by Toyota, Holden and Ford tallied 121,628.
In that 10 months compared with the same period last year, Japanese cars grew 9 per cent in sales, Thailand 17 per cent and South Korea 36 per cent while Australia’s were up just 3 per cent.
Imported cars now hold 86 per cent of the market in Australia, having steadily grown from 79 per cent in 2006.
Import tariffs were phased down to settle at 5 per cent on passenger cars and 4WDs from January this year, except for the zero tariff on vehicles from Thailand and the US, with which Australia has a free-trade agreement.
‘‘It was a big, big mistake having a free trade agreement with Thailand,’’ Australian Manufacturing Workers Union official John Camillo says.
‘‘Hundreds of thousands of Thai cars have come here,’’ Camillo says of the FTA that took effect four years ago. ‘‘But we’ve hardly sold any in Thailand because the Thai Government put a big tax on engine size and all the Australian (made) cars have larger engines.
‘‘I’m not a protectionist. I don’t want a bigger tariff, but we must maintain the 5 per cent tariff.’’
Camillo says the strength of the Australian dollar makes it ‘‘extremely hard’’ for Australian carmakers to export to offset their shrinking share of their home market.
They would have to ‘‘go green’’ and build environmentally friendly cars to sell here and overseas to help survive.
‘‘It’s vital we maintain a manufacturing industry here,’’ he says.
‘‘If we stop carmaking, that highly skilled workforce will disappear.
‘‘If all we have are imported cars, prices will go up and everyone ends up losing.’’