A struggling domestic auto industry long past its glory days of big rear-drive sedans is at an existential cross-roads. An upcoming election may decide the fate of thousands of jobs and decades of motoring history. Sound familiar? The madness of America’s election is over, but the same scenario is playing out in Australia.
Australia’s auto industry has had a rough year of government bailouts, plant layoffs, declining sales of domestic cars and supplier implosions. And it’s not going to get any easier. Holden boss Mike Deveraux bluntly said
Cars like the Mazda3 and Toyota Hilux and at the top of Australia’s sales charts, with traditional favorites like the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon slipping down the ladder. Even vehicles like the Volkswagen Golf are gaining in popularity, and domestic alternatives like the Ford Ranger and Holden Cruze are having a hard time catching up.
Australian cars, despite being coveted by enthusiasts around the world for the V8 engines are rear-drive platforms, were built to appeal to Australian tastes in an era where the market was protected and fuel was cheap. The combination of increased competition and the lack of scale for Holden and Ford’s big sedans (which are only exported to the Middle East and a couple assorted countries) also puts a damper on their financial success. Now that the landscape has changed, consumers are downsizing – and despite Ford’s efforts with the 2.0L Ecoboost Falcon, the big sedans don’t seem to be doing it.