Aussie car industry alive and well
Among the new machinery expected from across the Tasman in the next few years, there’ll hybrids, diesels and even some small cars, writes Dave Moore
ONLY a year or so ago, pundits were almost reading the last rites of the Australian car industry. They are probably looking up from their predictions of doom and gloom and rubbing their eyes now in the face of an untold number of advanced Holden, Ford and Toyota-badged cars ready to roll out for the Australian market.
That’s a market which is ready to celebrate its second-ever annual one million new car sales total.
At the recent Sydney motor show, Ford and Holden showed evidence that not only were they quickly getting ready to push aside competitors offering fully imported designs but also to design, engineer and sell vehicles to other parts of the world.
In other words, they’ve rebooted their fixation with large cars and big engines and have moved to create smaller vehicles to suit the market’s demands and new leading edge engines that are cleaner and easier on the pocket.
Neither maker will be forgetting its traditional large car core market, however but even those offerings will be first-world efficient rather than third-world profligate.
Over the next two years Holden’s new-vehicle explosion includes a range of four-wheeldrives, new family members for its small-car line-ups – some of which will be built in Australia, like the Ocker-designed five-door Cruze, which is to spawn a super Eco version, while the Fisherman’s bend crew will be also engineering major updates for the Commodore line-up.
Holden will also have its own version of the GM Volt rangeextending plug-in hybrid car within that two-year thrust, if GM’s plants can spare production that is.
While Holden won’t be building every model, its design people will certainly be driving the way they look, while it’s expected that Australian engineers will be working on the hard-points of a new Captiva soft-roader family, as well as an all-new pickup truck that will replace the current Colorado.
Ford said it had six new models of its own ready to reach showrooms in Australia and New Zealand.
The Falcon is to be supplied with super-efficient 2.0-litre fours and super-powerful 5.0-litre V8s, while the Territory is to undergo a ground-up revamp, with its top model taking a 2.7-litre turbodiesel V6 already used to good effect by Jaguar and Land Rover.
Stung by the success of the Captiva soft-roader, Ford will counter Holden with a Focus III-based Kuga 4x4 and many suspect that the Fiesta is about to spawn its own mini-SUV, which the Australian market could take to very readily.
The jury is still out on Ford’s intentions in terms of replacing the Ka.
But with Holden’s Barina Spark model on the scene – it’s a much more convincing Korean offering than the previous Barina was – the blue oval can’t afford not to compete with it.
With the long wheelbase Fairlane gone, Ford could even have an answer for its lack of a Holden Statesman competitor.
It appears that US Ford luxury nameplate Lincoln is going to become an international brand and Ford Australia would be a shoo-in for a large government car/ taxi offering based on the famous marque.
It’s also rumoured that stories of the RWD Falcon’s demise have been quashed in Detroit.
It seems that Ford in the US has been stung a little by the demand for the independently rear sprung Dodge Challenger and the similarly-suspended Chevrolet Camaro against the cart-sprung live-axle Mustang.
With Australia being the Michigan headquartered company’s only rear-drive independent suspension centre of excellence, Ford may need a new RWD platform even more than the market does.
Meanwhile, Toyota, which incidentally is Australia’s biggest exporter of cars, has decided to build an all-new Camry in both conventional and hybrid versions from early 2012, while there’s even a chance that the Highlander SUV – known as the Kluger in OZ – could also be built in Melbourne, again in petrol and hybrid forms.
So when the Dog and Lemon Guide again spouts about the imminent death of the Australian car industry, maybe it should add ‘‘Yeah, right’’.
HOLD ON: Suggestions made last year that Australian car manufacturer Holden was in financial trouble appear false.