It’s not often I’ll write a piece on the car industry as a whole, frankly I’ve only been around for a few years and I’d much prefer to sit back and learn a lot more before commentating. However given the current situation, I felt the need to write something.
Those of us heavily involved in the car industry view the current situation in two ways, some see it as the beginning of the end of traditional manufacturers whilst others, like myself, see this transition period as the best thing that could happen to the industry.
In any normal manufacturing company, enormous time and energy goes in to research and development, the R&D team along with the marketing team are meant to work out what products, in this case cars, is the market demanding and then begin the long process of designing, manufacturing and then marketing.
For vehicles this is generally done several years in advance, new cars that you see being released today were designed several years ago and it takes a long period of time to go from a concept to a full production ready car.
So then, the likes of GM, Chrysler and Ford all had an excuse given the three-four year delays in concept to production. They can say they didn’t see the market trend coming quickly enough.
However, here is where it gets interesting because if any R&D department can honestly say they never thought fuel efficient, smaller cars would be popular, they all need to get fired, although it seems they pretty much all have.
Japanese manufacturers have been setting the trend for smaller cars for decades, so what took the Americans and more importantly what took us so long?
What is Holden going to do given that GM has all but dumped the G8 in North America? Are the Australian sales helped slightly by the shrinking Middle East market enough to sustain the Commodore’s future? Apparently more than $1 billion was spent on the development of the VE Commodore, is there even another billion dollars to spend on the next Commodore?
None of us want to see the Commodore, Falcon or Aurion disappear. These are all Australian made cars and even though they may not live up to our full expectations, we still have that semi unconditional love for them, but just how much longer will that last?
Eventually private fleet managers are going to start realising that the Mazda3 or Toyota Corolla will do just fine and more importantly taxis and government fleets are all slowly going to move away from the big family cars.
So, where now?
Ford Australia will eventually build smaller cars here in Australia and that’s great news. Holden will no doubt do the same in due course. Toyota has somehow managed to convince the federal government to give it millions of dollars to build a local hybrid car it was already going to build anyway, but there is still that lingering question of if the big three can sustain their local production.
General Motors has all but sold Saab and Hummer, two non-performing brands. Holden is lucky to be the backbone of many of GM’s operations so it’s safe for now, however times can change.
The purpose of writing this article isn’t to speculate on the local car manufacturers’ future but it’s because I want to know what Australians want from their local car makers. Why is that we’ve all ran away and abandoned our own for foreign imports (myself included)?
Are Australian cars that far below the standard that we can no longer even consider our own? I talk to so many new car buyers that would have bought a Commodore or Falcon 10-15 years ago but now don’t even consider it as an option.
Brand values have also changed, driving a new Mazda6 is now more prestigious than driving a new Holden Commodore. This is a shift that has taken place over the past 10 years but if local manufacturers are to survive, it needs to shift back.
As Australians we are generally supporters of the underdog, did Holden and Ford get big enough for us to neglect them?
What will it take for you to consider Australian built cars on par with Japanese and Europeans cars?
Can you see yourself going back to an Aussie built car in the near future? Why or why not?