Australia is one of the most diverse, fragmented automotive markets in the world. We have more brands to choose from than the US, where 15-times more vehicles are sold.
Yet local product planners across the 60-plus car makers that sell their wares here regularly opt not to import and distribute certain models, usually citing a lack of projected demand or a difficult “business case” — code for “too bloody expensive”.
We’re not talking about vehicles made only in left-hand drive such as the Chevy Camaro, or cars focused at emerging markets without proper safety tech, such as the reborn Datsun brand, either.
These cars are all made in RHD and sold in markets such as the UK and Japan. And we’re not including parallel/grey imports, because we urge buyers to choose cars with factory warranties and backing where possible.
This is a quick list of cars that we reckon ought to be offered here, and which we think make some sense. OK, we aren’t bean counters, and far be it for us to tell car company planners how to suck eggs… Yet surely there’s a case for:
Toyota Prius Prime
We’re fundamentalists on this one. The whole point of the Prius is to make forward-thinking green motoring available to the masses. And frankly speaking, the ‘regular’ hybrid Prius we do get here is rocking the same basic drivetrain type that we marvelled at 10 years ago. Or more.
Like the Audi A3 e-tron, the Prius Prime can be driven as a pure electric car for short distances, then with petrol beyond that, and charged via a wall socket overnight. And being a Toyota it’ll be reliable, trusty, and affordable — the latter point compared to anything out of Germany.
Toyota Australia says demand isn’t high enough, but if a brand with 20 per cent market share can’t set the agenda, then what’s the point of there even being an agenda at all? In the meantime, the imminent Hyundai Ioniq PHEV will emerge and hopefully scold Toyota into seeing sense.
MORE: Toyota Prius Prime
Kia Optima Sportwagon
Kia is the fastest-growing mainstream brand in Australia this year, with sales up about 30 per cent propelling it into our top 10 brands. Having the best vehicle warranty in the country helps.
Moreover, vehicles such as the sexy rear-drive turbocharged Stinger GT, and excellent SUVs like the Sportage and Sorento GT-Lines, are making its folio of cars genuinely desirable.
Now is the time to capitalise by offering the sexy Optima Sportwagon, especially in innovative PHEV guise, as a green halo alongside the Stinger performance leader. Kia says there’s no demand, and calls itself a humble brand that needs to make sensible choices.
Stuff that, guys. You need to capitalise on your momentum and give your network the option of selling even more genuinely desirable offerings. The halo affect is hard to quantify, but don’t tell me annoyed Commodore Sportwagon owners without a new car to buy wouldn’t take a look…
MORE: Kia Optima Sportwagon
The Renault Scenic MPV is what we really want, but the Kadjar is a car that competes in the booming small SUV market, sitting elsewhere between the Captur and Koleos (both sold here).
It’s basically a French take on the hugely popular Nissan Qashqai, which is imported here from the UK at very reasonable prices. If Renault wants to grow, it needs product in key segments, surely.
Given the company has just appointed a new managing director here to replace the excellent Justin Hocevar, who to his credit really turned the company around locally, we hope there may be a management about-face. It’s a car that’d give the segment a shake-up.
MORE: Renault Kadjar
Ford Transit Connect
The Volkswagen Caddy and Renault Kangoo need some competition in the Euro-dominated small van market, and this little Ford is an ideal candidate.
We dig the Transit Custom and transit Heavy models, and have no reason to doubt that the smallest member of the family would be anything other than excellent as well.
It’s also obvious that Ford Australia needs to diversify its buyer set, given it’s so reliant on the Ranger and Mustang. One solution is to consolidate its range, but another is to branch out and see what experiments stick. We say start here.
MORE: Ford Transit
Mercedes-Benz Australia decided not to import the much-improved new-generation Smart, because it couldn't get the car here at a desirable price point (below $20k).
We understand that, but we’d also say it missed a perfect chance to re-explore online retailing in a more mature market, and to capitalise on the increasing urbanisation here.
Moreover, as car-sharing programs enter a phase of growth here — finally — tiny novelties like the Smart make perfect choices. We don’t imagine huge volumes, but surely there’s a cogent argument that can be made to get these babies back.
Oh, and bring the Brabus hot ones while you’re at it?
Pictured: New SsangYong Rexton and new Dacia Duster
Other models we want
- New-generation Dacia Duster
- Ford Kuga Vignale
- Holden-badged Opel vans
- Honda CR-V hybrid
- Mitsubishi Delica
- UK-market Nissan Pulsar
- Nissan Elgrand
- All Nissan vans
- Renault Scenic
- New-generation Ssangyong Rexton
- Suzuki Hustler
- Toyota Crown
- Toyota GT86 RC on steelies
What do you think? Tell us what cars you’d love to see here, imported through official channels.