By on July 19, 2012

As dismissive as I tend to be of the internet product-planning brigade, their constant cries of “Bring rear-drive, V8 full-size Aussie sedans to America” may have some credibility – the market for these cars in Australia seems to be going teats up, with SUVs and small cars taking their place.

The Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon are clearly suffering; while they once vied for either of the top two spots, the Commodore is the 5th best selling vehicle in 2012 so far, trailing the Mazda3 by about 6,000 units, while the Falcon doesn’t even merit a spot in the top 10.

Some observers have cited SUVs as a possibly culprit for the demise of the Australian family sedan, but a look at the sales table for both 2011 and 2012 shows that smaller, fuel-efficient cars are eating the lunch of the “Aussie Rules” cars. The Mazda3 bumped the Commodore off a 15-year winning streak in 2011, and the market hasn’t looked back since.

Nameplates like Corolla, Cruze, i30 and Yaris have crept up on the big sedans, and dominated the first half of 2012, along with the venerable Toyota Hilux pickup. The Falcon and its stablemate, the Ford Territory, are nowhere to be found in the Top 10, a bad sign for Ford’s Australian operations.

Australia’s auto industry has been having subsidies pumped into it for a number of years, but things only seem to be getting worse. A journal published by leading Australian industries astutely noted that the Australian market is “…too small for manufacturing; too prosperous to ignore.” The short-term future seems to hold a continued injection of government money into the auto industry – and quite possibly, the demise of the rear-drive Australian sedan.

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54 Comments on “Ominous Signs For Australia’s Large Rear-Drive Sedans...”


  • avatar
    Volt 230

    When gas goes to $5 and more these “Aussie RWD demands are gonna go away.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “When gas goes to $5…”

      In Australia, it already has:

      http://www.aip.com.au/pricing/retail/ulp/index.htm

      For years, the Australian auto market was protected with high tariffs and restrictions. Those barriers are being lowered.

      This shift in the market would probably be happening, anyway. For one, Holdens and Australian Fords are not particularly reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        I meant here in the States, where some are asking for those Aussies to be brought here, the G8 came and was mostly ignored, why should the others succeed?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “For one, Holdens and Australian Fords are not particularly reliable.”

        Is this is a well known fact?

        Also – The G8 was only sold for about twenty minutes, we’d have a better idea how Aussie stuff would sell here if it had a four or five year run. Not necessarily disagreeing Aussie stuff wont do well, just sayin’

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        In the JD Power Australia survey, Holden finished last, Ford next to last.

        http://news.theage.com.au/national/holden-ford-at-bottom-of-car-survey-20080223-1u4c.html

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        …For one, Holdens and Australian Fords are not particularly reliable…

        I can speak for Ford, but I can speak for the True Delta information on the G8 and it is quite average (after some early production 2008 kinks were worked out). Stellar? No. Average. yes.

        The G8 GT was on the recommended use car list on Consumer Reports also.

        I wouldn’t say the VE Commodore is “unreliable.”

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        …In the JD Power Australia survey, Holden finished last, Ford next to last.

        http://news.theage.com.au/national/holden-ford-at-bottom-of-car-survey-20080223-1u4c.html

        @PCH101

        Ummm, that story was written in February of 2008 based on 2004 model year vehicles, hardly up-to-date data. It appears that JD Power never did the survey again (e.g. there are no 2009, 2010, 2011, etc. data that can be found). At least not that I could find poking around Google/Bing

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      “Aussie RWD” doesn’t have to mean inefficient. I, for one, would love to have a new Falcon with a diesel, an EcoBoost V6, or even a turbo 4 or hybrid option. Its the fact that its a big, RWD sedan that’s interesting, not the number of cylinders or how much gas it burns.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        JD Power does not reflect actual ownership experiences. Most of these vehicles easily get 300,000 km as a general life expectancy. VW that is sell ing swell at the moment in Australia, has nowhere near that sort expectancy.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        If Fisker can put GM’s very good 2 liter Ecotec direct injection turbo in a large RWD sedan why can’t GM? Sure the Fisker also has electric motors, but there was a time when the Ecotec’s 260 HP/260 LB-FT would be considered a rocketship.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “JD Power does not reflect actual ownership experiences.”

        Of course it does. It’s a survey of those who own the cars.

        I suppose that one thing that American and Australian car fans have in common is their tendency to reject surveys that don’t cast a kind light onto their own personal tastes.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Since this was the 3-year ownership experience survey, not the “initial quality survey,” I think one would have to take its results a bit more seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @DC Bruce

        The linked data is from February 2008 done on survey data in 2007 on 2004 model year vehicles.

        The pool of vehicles surveyed makes this information almost nine years old – an eternity by automotive/technology standards.

        JD Power never updated the survey for the years that followed (likely pulled the plug in 2009 due to the global economic meltdown).

        The data is outdated.

      • 0 avatar
        Styles79

        There is a 2.0 Ecoboost on the way, and by all reports sounds interesting.

      • 0 avatar
        Ooshley

        EcoBoost 2.0 Falcon is already here. It’s not selling.

        There are a few reasons IMO: what customer base is left to them is the rusted on conservatives resistant to change; the rest view the vehicle as a big heavy thirsty boat, regardless of what is under the hood, and associated with ‘bogans’*; Ford Aus. have always been terrible at marketing and nothing has changed recently; plus some are still haunted by disastrous experiments with 4-cylinders in local large sedans in the past.

        I think they would have had better luck with the 2.7 Diesel they put in the Territory.

        *See: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/bogans/story-e6frg6n6-1226400727255

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        Why not just get an amazingly boring, FWD Taurus then if you want those sissy engines?

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      ‘In the JD Power Australia survey, Holden finished last, Ford next to last.’

      It’s worth noting that in terms of models offered, the locally-designed cars are only a small portion of the Holden and Ford ranges.

      Most Holdens are rebadged Opels or GM/Daewoos (Captiva, Barina, Spark–and the Cruze now outsells the Commodore. The Ford line has lots of Euro Fords, Fiestas Mondeos etc, so a whole-brand survey doesn’t necessarily speak to the reliability of the Commodore/Falcon.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    So does this mean the US is finally going to get the Ute SSV (I’ll take the Redline please!)?? I’ve always dreamt about a modern day El Camino. I think I was a red neck in a prior life…….

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      There is no market* for Australian style Utes in the US, although I think that there is a market for Latin American style Utes in the US.

      The best that the US can hope for with regard to the large RWD Australian sedans is that GM build a coupe based on the Commodore (but with more extreme styling since everyone complained about how bland the GTO was), and build it in North America so that it can be sold dirt cheap. If we’re really lucky the V6 will come with a manual, not just the V8 like with the G8.

      The problem is that the Camaro is exactly that. A Commodore coupe. More extreme styling than the GTO. A manual transmission available with every engine choice. Dirt cheap. But everyone still complains about it.

      *By no market I mean an Chevrolet SSR size market, possibly less without the convertible top that the SSR had.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        The Camaro has all the outward visibility of an Armored Personnel Carrier. Goes likes stink, you just can’t see where you’re going. Wasn’t the SSR more of a halo vehicle that cost 40k? I could see an El Camino type thing at Colorado/Canyon prices.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Yes but a Ute here is either a “Corvette wit a bed” or a cab chassis vehicle than has a payload of 2,700lb and very easy loading and unloading characteristics with the driveability and safety of a sedan, better safety rating than a US Pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        ” could see an El Camino type thing at Colorado/Canyon prices.”

        Which would never happen because there’s no way they could sell a premium unibody sedan-based truck at the rock-bottom price that a crude, ancient trucklet can be hocked at.

        Hell, they can’t even sell the trucklet profitably.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        How do you know there is no market for the Ute? No one has sold one here since the 80′s. That’s a long time ago and things have changed a bit since.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Nothing to do with reliability at all or Petrol prices (Falcons are used as Taxi’s everywhere in Australia), but changing buying habits. SUV’s and diesel pickups are exploding as cars of choice. Smaller SUV’s are even cutting into small car sales. Ford Australia is now going to put more emphasis on the diesel SUV Territory production. The Territory has been outselling a lot of Japanese SUV’s

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Robert,

      You hit it right on the head. This trend is more subtle than just V-8 engines, RWD, perceived reliability, or gasoline (petrol) prices. The Australian mini-SUV/small-CUV effect seems to be world-wide, which may explain why even BMW, Porsche, Mercedes,— and astonishingly Ferrari and Lamborghini — were lured into that market in the first place. Like it or not, we are seeing that that is where the money is, and our favorite brands are being diluted in order to survive.

      ——–

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    It def doesnt help that Aussies pay damn near 100% taxes on car purchases. I am sure fuel is similarly expensive. But most importantly the big V8s answer a call that is no longer really needed. What would be great is if they downsized those RWD sedans a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      True. The whole car is not needed that is the problem. Midsize FWD vehicles like the Camry and Ford Mondeo sell terribly. If you have a SUV, diesel Pickup or a compact car , it will sell.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Obviously its because there is no diesel manual wagon offered.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Knowing nothing about Australia and despite the unusual fauna who live there and nowhere else (e.g. kangaroos), I don’t see why the same technological and market forces that have limited RWD automobiles for the most part to the luxury and semi-luxury as well as the performance markets would not create the same outcomes in OZ. Add to that fact that, unlike the U.S., OZ has no indigenous petroleum production which means that the government taxes it heavily to discourage consumption.

    Even in the U.S., the only non-premium, non-performance RWD sedan which apparently has been fairly successful is the Chrysler 300. The last one I drove (a rental “Limited” model, made before the current refresh) I rather liked in spite of its plasticky interior, outdated automatic and mediocre 3.5 liter V-6 engine. No doubt that fact that I’m tall 6’3” had something to do with it. The refreshed version supposedly has cured all of the problems I alluded to, although, to my eyes, the exterior changes are sort of a “meh!”

    If you can trust the reviews, the re-animated OZ-sourced GTO had more issues than its Q-ship styling. The G8 was sold only briefly and, to my eyes, featured the worse of terminal Pontiac’s styling excesses, with a farrago of vents, cladding and so on. Finally, there’s the significant cost of building a vehicle that can be sold in OZ in a right hand drive version and in the U.S. in a left hand drive version.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Nothing to do with it. Australia does produce it’s own petroleum and LPG/Natural gas. It is changing tastes, nothing to do with what is happening in the US.ie we love diesels, hatchbacks and wagons.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      There isn’t one millimeter of cladding on a Pontiac G8. You’ll find more “cladding” on an LFA

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    US Vehicles like the Taurus(especially), Explorer , Suburban and the Brazilian built F250 were total turkeys in Australia. US vehicles have improved a lot since the mid 2000′s, but very much lag behind in quality perceptions to to other vehicles. Jeep is the best selling US brand in Australia, but lags considerably behind the Japanese and Koreans.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The Oz car market is only about 1 million per year. Having two makers of RWD cars on their own platform just doesn’t make economic sense. They either need to export to achieve economies of scale or start using existing platforms to reduce R&D and manufacturing costs.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      That has been a problem with Ford it did not allow Ford Australia to export the Falcon. Holden is exporting the Commodore to the Middle East and Brazil. The High Australian dollar does not help any export drives.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Holden VE Commodore – Australia

        Vauxhall VXR8 – UK

        Holden Commodore – Western Europe

        Chevrolet Caprice – Middle East

        Chevrolet Lumina – South Africa / Brazil

        Buick Park Avenue – China

        Caprice PPV – United States

        SS Performance – coming United States late 2013 as a VF Commodore

  • avatar
    gromit

    Even the fleet sales that traditionally have made up a high percentage of Commodore and Falcon sales seem to be drying up.

    My local taxi company used to use Falcons. Now they use the Toyota Prius.

    The Queensland police seem to have switched from Commodores and Falcons to using mainly Toyotas.

    • 0 avatar
      itsnotagsr

      I get a lot of taxis. I’ve asked this questions. The drivers ALL prefer the Falcon and LWB Falcon derivatives (which have now stopped). In their opinion (and I trust people who drive 80-100,000 miles a year), the Falcon drivetrains is very reliable. Its also cheap to repair and overhaul.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    The Falcan and commodore suffer from one big problem. They are total money pitsd. pay $30,000 for a base model,within 2 years any dealer who offers over $2500 tradein will have riocks in his head.
    There a plenty of 3-4 year old Fords and Holdens on the market selling for around $2500. Forget what is seen on dealers lots or on line adverts,the real picture can be seen at vehicle auctions (Greys,Pickles, Turners etc ) where a late model car can bought at crazy prices. Falcons have been offered with LPG for at least 20 years and provide cheap transport for the average family . The commodore V6 engine is it’s down fall with many owners simply junking the family sedan when the engine dies around 250,000 . So it’s no wonder no one wants to sink money into a big junker when even Chery can provide a car with everything for $12,000 drive away.

    • 0 avatar
      Dsemaj

      Are you on crack, or is that a typo? $2500 for a 3-4 year old Falcadore? Maybe $25,000… Base models start closer to $40k, and into the mid $40k range for the cars people actually buy (SV6, XR6, G6, etc)

      Granted, if you buy a stripper Omega or XT from ex-government fleets, you can get a 2-3 year example for around $15k, maybe less if you’re not picky. But resale isn’t quite as bad as it used to be, Holden doesn’t release a new series of Commodore every year for that reason.

      Any car will fail at 250,000km if you don’t take care of it. I know many friends with examples close to a million kilometres, ex cabs mind you!

      Come on, really? People buying a Chery over a Commodore or Falcon? Yeah, because they can’t even crack over 1000 units a month. Far less at that. No one wants to buy a crappy Chinese hatchback that would’ve been considered dated and poorly engineered back 10 years ago, when you can buy a much safer, better engineered used car for far less. Not even in the same class.

      As others have pointed out, no one apart from tragic bogans really thinks that RWD Commodores and Falcons are really relevant in today’s marketplace. Even I’ll admit that as someone who loves the cars. Families are flocking to SUVs and small cars. Even the Holden Cruze (locally made here in the same factory as the Commodore) is outselling the Commodore.

  • avatar
    itsnotagsr

    I live in Australia. I have often wondered how Americans view the Commodore/Falcon cars and whether they would buy them. The GTO was a missed opportunity as the basic car was actually quite subtle before the Pontiac bits were grafted on. Would the current models sell?

    As for Australian buying trends, there are a couple of factors.

    Firstly, most of these cars are bought by company fleets. Rewind 10 odd years ago and your average employee who had a company car only had the option to buy Australian due to company policy. The spec depended on your seniority. However, this changed over the past decade as hire/purchase leases came in and fleet management was outsourced. The european brands introduced more affordable cars (eg 3-series/C-Class) and it became trendy to drive an entry level European (eg 318i/320i) rather than an upper spec Ford/Holden.

    Secondly, as pointed out above, re-sale values of non-V8 Falcons/Commodres is terrible. Fleets, and more importantly higher margin private purchasers, got sick of the high depreciation on these cars. The Japanese models didn’t suffer as much from this. I think its in part due to strong second hand demand for Toyotas/Mazdas/Subarus compared to the the non-v8 Australian models. In addition, local manufacturers suffered by not controlling their production and inventory. These cars were always on sale as Ford/Holden focused on throughput, not margins. They did not structurally change their production volumes as demand reduced. This lead to further and further discounting. At the time Mitsubishi was also producing a large car and these were being heavily, heavily discounted. This also lead to pressure on prices for base models. Imported models didn’t have the same issues as stock (and therefore discounting) could be better controlled.

    Thirdly, demographics have changed in Australia. You’re seeing a more multi-cultural society. Lots of people haven’t grown up in the Holden/Ford cultural divide as in previous decades. For them a V8 isn’t their childhood dream. They’re happy with a Corolla/Camry or Mazda 3/6 or Civic/Accord. Therefore the demograhics are changing for the key markets that used to buy Commodores/Falcons. You’ve also got more people living in cities and don’t have the room to park a large car. Hence more hatchbacks and smaller cars.

    I think the quality comments above are a bit off the mark. These were definitely a factor in the 80s/90s. However, I think over the past 10 years they’ve definitely lifted their game. The Commodore/Falcon represents huge value for money in terms of space and performance, its just that people’s tastes have changed.

    The challenge for all large car manufacturers is that large cars are no longer “cool” today. CUVs/SUVs are in. Especially with women. I think women have much more imput into the new car buying decision than before and this is impacting on the family car market.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      “The challenge for all large car manufacturers is that large cars are no longer “cool” today.”

      This is really the crux of the problem. Even in the US, there has been a huge surge in the B segment, as well as an uptick in C segment cars and the death of old barges like the Crown Vic etc. At least with an SUV, you get easier ingress/egress and a “commanding view”. Big cars are really just good for fuel efficient family rentals and cops.

      • 0 avatar
        itsnotagsr

        I think large RWD cars have a market. Its just much smaller than it used to be. For example, if you had a RWD, Euro badge, good space, good fuel economy and attractive price, then you might have a winner.

        For me the only manufacturer that might pull that off would be someone like Lexus. Notwithstanding that they don’t have the right platform, the badge seems to work for a lot of people, fuel economy is reasonable, and their price point is ok.

  • avatar
    Joss

    There be reliable then there be durable..Volvo weren’t that reliable but they were durable. Never been to oz guess her to be mostly unpaved outback? Would SUV & front drive be able to take the beating and still be rescueable out @ dingo garage?

    • 0 avatar
      Dsemaj

      Most of us live in cities with atleast a million or more people. Even then, majority of major country roads are paved unless you travel out to the outback.

      Commodores and Falcons have been tuned to survive out there, which is partly why the Commodore is suited to export for the UAE.

    • 0 avatar
      itsnotagsr

      My parents had a 240. That was both. However, I’ve heard of multiple XC90s needing transmissions rebuilt. Thats neither.

      You’ll find that real country people mainly drive Japanese SUVs and utes or Falcons/Commodores.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      This is a good point… my family is from Ghana and it is always cool to see what cars endure vs which ones just have no presence. Honda for example has zero presence there, the cars are too delicate. But Nissan/Datsun, Toyota, MB, old Peugeots, all are like standard fare there.

      Anyways I don’t think durability would be an issue for something like a CR-V… its got the ground clearance to deal with imperfect roads and its Japanese. Childs play.

      • 0 avatar
        itsnotagsr

        A CRV would not stand up to the abuse that “real” SUV owners in the country hand them. Thats why you only see cars/trucks like Hiluxs and Land Cruisers. Durability is more than just having a Japanese badge and faux ground clearance.

  • avatar
    Dsemaj

    I guess no one else has considered this – the Commmodore in it’s most basic form, has been on the market since 2006, and was the best selling car in the country until this year. It’s only had minor updates, but on the whole, you can buy a 2006 which is almost the same as the shiny, new 2012 model. Sure, slightly new headlights, front bumper and a new touchscreen inside, but to your neighbours, it looks exactly the same.

    I’d like to think that next year when the VF comes along, the Commodore will have a resurgence, but only providing they’ve got a bag of tricks which makes the car more relevant in today’s market – better, more efficient engines and fresh styling.

    • 0 avatar
      itsnotagsr

      Whilst that may be a factor, I believe the demographic change to be a more important one. You have whole sections of the community who would rather have a Corolla/Cruise/3 than a Falcon/Commodore as a family car. A new Commodore or Falcon would not change their minds.

      The reality is that Mullaly is right. You have to be a global player and GM/Ford have locked out their Australian operations from exporting. My guess is because they’ve received large sums of money from the US taxpayer and therefore its unattractive to import Australian cars when there are empty factories in Detroit and plenty of unemployed workers to fill them.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “…what customer base is left to them is the rusted on conservatives resistant to change; the rest view the vehicle as a big heavy thirsty boat, regardless of what is under the hood, and associated with ‘bogans’*;”

    Change some words and same could be said about the old Crown Vics. Some ‘enthusiasts’ for some time have been going “bring Falcon here, it will push Japanese cars back”. Umm, if it can’t succeed in AUS anymore, then it’s fading fast.

    One other trend noticed is most new ‘traditional’ German cars have AWD optional, and I see many “X” or ‘AWD’ tags on new BMW’s, Infinitis, and Benzes in North Shore burbs of Chicago, i.e. very rich area

    • 0 avatar
      itsnotagsr

      Agree – as a truly global platform it might work. But that would be hard for a US-centric company to agree to. Especially when US taxpayers have “saved the company”.

      I think the failure of the Caprice to win a decent volume of police business will curb any enthusiasm from with GM and Ford to export future Commodores and Falcons.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Unfortunately for the US, The sedans like the current Malibu, Explorer and Taurus do not sell outside North America. US Industry at the moment has a problem selling in Europe, Asia and Australia North American models in any sufficient quantity, I guess South America would be similar.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      High end cars with “KNAUZ” license frames.

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    You know, I don’t understand how ‘Utes rose to popularity in Australia. That doesn’t mean that I don’t approve of them.

    In fact, the Aussies surprise me every time with a car that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. Add in content from kiwi contributors and Bryce (certainly, you must have heard of him once at another popular site run by a Neidermeyer) and you have a hell of an entertaining site.

    Bring on that Aussie/Kiwi knowledge, folks! I love to read about what other people are driving halfway across the world from me. It makes me appreciate cars a lot more!


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