Aus­tralian ... all over

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Comment - PAUL POTTINGER CARSGUIDE ED­I­TOR

“YOUSE meedja ’ave killed orf Holden,” reads a per­pet­ual mis­sive, which, though sent via email, still some­how re­sounds of in­fan­tile dic­tion and reeks of beery ag­gro.

This fla­grant re­al­ity de­nial used to amaze and amuse me.

It’s the equiv­a­lent of claim­ing the Soviet Union col­lapsed be­cause one spring day Pravda ran the head­line: “Com­mu­nism — it’s a bit crap ac­tu­ally”. Such shouty and child­ish rhetoric now merely bores me.

The ed­i­fice of lo­cal car man­u­fac­ture has crum­bled be­cause the cars it makes are not rel­e­vant or good enough. The peo­ple, hav­ing breathed a lung­ful of free choice, aren’t about to go back on the col­lec­tive farm. With the fi­nan­cial Ber­lin Wall that was the tar­iff bar­rier dis­man­tled, state-fi­nanced sedans were sud­denly seen to have lit­tle al­lure and all the stale pa­tri­otic pro­pa­ganda in a copy­writer’s key­board can’t change that.

Be­cause it has not a sin­gle fleet or rental sale, the Mazda3 is a re­mark­able au­to­mo­tive suc­cess sto­ries. Not much re­garded else­where, here it is truly the na­tional car — and a more glar­ing po­lar­ity to trad Aussie sixes is not to be had. This is es­pe­cially re­mark­able given the out­go­ing car is no bet­ter than the fifth best car of its type.

Driv­ing the VF Com­modore against the Mazda6 diesel dur­ing Carsguide’s Car of the Year was to be dis­mayed.

It’s a great Com­modore, but plainly most of you don’t care and haven’t for some time.

Ditto “rear-wheel-drive pu­rity”. In the painfully con­strained driv­ing con­di­tions of this coun­try where mo­torists ex­ist only to fill state gov­ern­ment cof­fers,

RWD’s only tan­gi­ble ad­van­tage is a smaller turn­ing cir­cle — un­less, of course, you ex­ist in the al­ter­na­tive re­al­ity of monthly car mag­a­zines.

Any­one who doesn’t blind­fold them­selves with the flag ap­pre­ci­ates that the blame re­sides with the Amer­i­can auto com­pa­nies that con­tin­ued to make cars ever fewer peo­ple wanted.

There’s also the in­con­ve­nient truth that ceas­ing to build cars in Mel­bourne or Ade­laide “does not af­fect our bot­tom line one cent,” as one Detroit auto-crat told me.

Just as some an­cient Reds pine for Stalin, there are os­ten­si­bly adult Aus­tralians who be­lieve that if the tar­iff ram­parts were res­ur­rected ev­ery­one would buy ’Strayan again and all would be well in our work­ers’ par­adise. And maybe cen­sor all sub­ver­sive opin­ions while we’re about it.

The re­main­ing ar­gu­ment for Aus­tralian car­mak­ing is the one in which eco­nomic fun­da­men­tal­ists are un­in­ter­ested — the small mat­ter of the 45,000 work­ers who de­pend on it. I’d hap­pily pay yet more taxes to sub­sidise the build­ing of cars by Aus­tralians if the cars built are those that Aus­tralians want.

Peo­ple’s choice: Carsguide’s COTY shows lo­cal ve­hi­cle build­ing has crum­bled

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