By on July 11, 2013

Holden and HSV try their hand at the “Imported From Detroit” style car commercial. As someone who has always been partial to Aussie muscle sedans, it’s easy for me to say I’m a fan. No doubt the line about cars becoming “smaller, quieter and more vanilla” will resonate with many of us. In a country where the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla have knocked the Commodore and Ford Falcon off the top perches of the sales leader boards, it carries extra significance.

The latest news out of Australia shows that Holden’s Australian manufacturing base is barely hanging on, searching for new product in the post-RWD Commodore era and hitting up the Australian government for yet another round of subsidies. The sad fact is that the Commodore, like the soon-to-be-departed Falcon, is an anachronism. As our own Marcelo De Vasconcellos put it

Welcome to the brave new world. A world where what’s available in your local markets is more influenced by what people predominantly prefer the world over, than whatever the locals may wish for.

In this case, that is a more efficiently packaged sedan, and that would suggest a transverse layout, smaller engines and a footprint appropriate for markets beyond Australia. There may be a chance that the next Commodore rides on some kind of Alpha platform, but long-standing rumors suggest that it will in fact resemble every other front-drive GM sedan out there already.Interestingly, an SUV such as the Captiva, has been ruled out for Australian production, despite being cited by some as a potential savoir for Australian car factories. The reality is that a Thai-built Captiva is far more profitable, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

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57 Comments on “HSV Gen-F GTS: Imported From Adelaide, But For How Much Longer?...”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Simple problem is that the Commodore and Falcon outgrew their market. They needed to be downsized a decade ago, but that didn’t happen and globalization made them obsolete so now they get to die instead.

  • avatar

    I would like to point out that Australia has superior names for their car models. That is all.

  • avatar

    Should I find it ironic therefore that I lament the shrinking of the Commodore via the new chassis, as used Stateside for the Caprice PPV and Chevy SS? I’d still rather drive a G8 GXP, if one could be found that is.

    • 0 avatar

      What shrinking? The VF is on the exact same platform as the VE lengthwise, and the Caprice is the LWB version.

      If GM weren’t so stingy with the cash, they could’ve redesigned the platform to make it smaller. Shame.

  • avatar

    This ad has been approved by DNA Magazine for its exemplary homoerotic content.

    DNA…Made That Way

  • avatar

    2 mins of pure fantasy

    here’s the reality… how many people can afford to buy a $100k 4,400lb 600hp+ rocket sled that does teens for mpg and is crazy to insure and premium fuel is up to $1.75 a litre

    btw. the urban speed limit is a mere 30-40mph

    i applaud that such cars are available anywhere but its coming to the end for these dinosaurs

  • avatar

    There’s still a market for a $40k. 4000 lb. 200 HP sedan with a back seat for three adults and 20-24 MPG on regular gas. OMG – I just described a 2005 Buick LeSabre!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    At the moment GMH want $265 million to keep their doors open. I say tough, don’t give them a cent.

    How many jobs will be saved for that money? I’m not pro dumping jobs, but of what benefit are there jobs when the consumer is rejecting GMH’s product (Ford and Toyota included).

    They have to be competitive and they aren’t, a simple reality in global trade. What I’m about to write could be deemed harsh.

    From what I’ve read in the newspaper the average wage of a line worker in Australia at GMH is over $65k a year. How can any industry work and compete with that kind of overhead.

    The Australian dollar has a traditional average of 75c US over the recent past, it is now down to 92c US. We are way off the mark.

    As the vehicle manufacturers globalise, an isolated and tiny market will not support this industry.

    GM and Ford have some responsibilty toward what has occurred, they haven’t kept pace with the consumer and economic situation.

    Australia is not a manufacturing nation, we are an agricultural/mining nation. Manufacturing was viable at one time when Australia was very isolated and relied on Europe and North America, but now the world is much closer to our door steps, in fact closer than America and Europe are, China and SE and South Asia.

    I love HSVs and FPVs, but this is where GMH and Ford should have developed these products for export, not volume vehicles. But like I have stated the ball has been dropped and it is now to late.

    The redundant vehicle workers can find jobs, we have quite a few.

    Also with the numbers of vehicles increasing globally at the moment Australia will have jobs indirectly linked to the increase global auto industry. All vehicles are made from minerals, they have to come from somewhere, and I would assume a considerable amount of minerals for the global vehicle sector comes from Australia. So in the end we are laughing.

    • 0 avatar

      @Big Al from Oz,
      Would disagree with you there. You would lose approximately 350,000 direct and related jobs if Holden was to close. Similar to what faced.
      the US prior and after the GFC.
      I think as part of the money’s conditions much greater emphasis should be placed on exports from Holden. As well the Australian parts Industry should be given support to help enter new markets overseas. I.E. ION industries with Harley Davidson PBR Disc Brakes on the Corvette ZO6

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        BAFO seems to forget the basic (and worrying) fact that Australia is increasingly pricing itself out of the market. You name it: wages, energy, red/green tape, taxes, currency.

        He also forgets that many other industries tap the skills base created by the auto industry. Be it manufacturing, design, logistics…

        He probably doesn’t know that many Asian students come down here to get trained in Automotive Engineering by Australian universities. I see that every semester, as in the Masters course I’m taking, the overwhelming majority of my classmates come from either India or China.

        He also loses sight that Thailand wants Australian auto part makers to invest and setup plants there (or even supply from here) for their industry.

        Digging a hole in the ground and extracting dirt without adding any value doesn’t sound very smart to me. That’s basically what 3rd world countries do: sell cheap commodities and purchase expensive finished products. I know Australia is not in that situation, but I’ve seen first hand that picture before and it’s not pretty.

        So the question to be made here is not really if we need to give AU$275M to Holden (or an undisclosed amount to Toyota and the others). It’s a [email protected]#$%ng simplistic one, actually. The questions to be made go far deeper than that. But what do I know, I’m just a newcomer.

        • 0 avatar

          @Athos Noble,
          It would appear Industrial policy is based on “stumbling along”in Australia(I doubt it is much better in the US or UK) too much emphasis on the micro and not the macro.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      “average wage of a line worker in Australia at GMH is over $65k a year”


      I bet that includes shift premiums and overtime.

    • 0 avatar

      Agriculture and mining is what third world countries do, manufacturing is what first world countries do, although not for much longer unless we all change our ways.

      Labor costs in any Western country are ten to twenty times higher than in China or Thailand, which is why global car companies are so enthusiastic about sourcing their products there. That people in first world countries lose their jobs, their skills and their prospects is of no concern to them; globalists just prattle on about “ïnnovation” and “productivity” to deflect us from what is really going on.

      When Australia adopted free trade in the 1980s at the behest of pushy globalist pimps, dozey bureacrats and a Greek chorus of academic boofheads, it began the process of wiping out 150 years of hard won industrial progress in favour of the utopian musings of an early 19thC English speculator.

      A country that could once make just about anything will soon be struggling to make a pair of shoes. In the mid 1950s, the UK derived 32% of its GDP from manufacturing, Australia got 29.5% and the US 27%. All of us are probably down to about a third of that now.

      The price Australians have paid for free trade is a fivefold increase in unemployment, a burgeoning foreign debt, a doubling of the GDP share gobbled up by government and the almost complete destruction of its technological skill base. Is the situation very much different in the US or the UK?

      The specific problem for the Australian automotive industry is that Ford and GM were always reluctant players and would never allow their subsidiaries to design and build the products they really needed; google the 2004 Torana TT36 concept for proof. This potential E36 competitor got dumped for the Cruze, would you believe. All the locals were allowed to build were dinosaurs like the Commodore and Falcon, and now, surprise, surprise, they can’t sell them.

      Pat Buchanan has the right angle on this; time to stop feeding the dragon and start pulling the rug out from under the corporations that have betrayed the nations that made them.

      • 0 avatar

        Right. Pat Buchanan. Gotta love the guy. Loads of fun. Craig, he gets his campaign money because he is a solid establishment guy who deliberately appeals to the crazy right wing. The idea is that if, God forbid, times get so hard that the extremist wings get popular, good old solid Pat (as opposed to an American Hitler) would emerge as the leader of the right wingers.

        • 0 avatar

          Are you serious? Pat is a protectionist, not a Nazi. That puts him in a fine American tradition; one that goes all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.

          Protectionism is not a right/left thing; it’s a “looking after your own people first” thing.

          Do you think the US got to be the greatest nation on earth by not taking care of its industries?

          As for “extremism”, have you listened to any free market economists lately? These guys think like Marxists; if the real world isn’t heaven on earth then smash it all to pieces.

          The US embrace of free trade is a post 1945 idea; a grab for economic advantage (nothing wrong with that) from a position of industrial dominance. Britain tried the same thing in 1846 and went downhill from there. Pity for the US that the Asian mercantilists had their own ideas.

          But how could the Aussies fall for this crap? Small population, pay themselves too much, good people, but not the sharpest tools in the drawer. Free trade was never going to work for them. Look at all the long faces now that the Chinese are not buying as much dirt.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m just repeating what one of Pat’s friends said when he hit me up for a campaign contribution for Pat. Port Power. Go Crow Eaters.

            “Agriculture and mining is what third world countries do, manufacturing is what first world countries do” When you say really stupid stuff like this, who among us can possibly ignore the fact that you are a complete dumb ass.

            By the way, the A$ has always been a creature of commodity prices. In recent decades this has meant minerals and other such raw materials prices. Oz is wonderful. You are a great, skillful and adaptable people. Do like you have always done. Go with what you got. Good on ya mates.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Like the ancient Roman’s, the US got its power from control of world trade, not industry.

            Industry after the Civil War made America what it is today. It provided cheap wares to the Europeans, sort of like the Japanese did, Koreans and now the Chinese etc.

            Better learn about economics and history if you want to debate me.

            As for engineering, where did the US just get its SCRAM jet technology from, which country was first at the first successful SCRAM jet operation?

            What about our digital technology? Did you know in Australia this year we have successfully stored information with electrons?

            That is the future, manufacturing WAS the future like agriculture and its associated technologies was high tech for the Romans.

            The world is changing.

          • 0 avatar

            In all seriousness, Oz does have an issue as to just how much automobile industry to sustain over the longer term. I was last in your country visiting relatives 14 years ago when your currency was in the dumper – about 0.65 USD. Car manufacturing looked pretty good just then.

            Natural resource industries, like those you depend on, have a certain cycle. I am from Texas USA. I understand these things all too well. We don’t even have our own currency to soften the blow in bad times.

            Granted, we are not at the far end of the Earth, but we have done just fine with only assembly plants. So has California. This may point you toward a solution. We have hot rods, cutting edge design and Tesla type technology. Why not? Let the other guys do the grunt work. If things go totally to s**t, do you seriously think we wouldn’t be able to make our own cars in a pinch?

            That said, I would hate to make the case for a complete extinction of the Oz car making business. Still, some of your best trading partners – China, Japan, Korea, India and Pakistan – are taking off on an historic car making age.

            You guys are a bunch of lucky bastards.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            I read an interesting article in one of our newpapers yesterday. It stated our next boom will be agriculture.

            Now that the Asian economies have created a much larger middle class they want better food.

            Australia has the most productive farms per capita in the world. Except we have been short sighted and not developed those markets enough.

            But because we are stable and reliable they think we will be able to easily develop them.

            Also, contrary to popular belief our mining industry isn’t in decline. What has occurred is the investment into building new mines only has a couple of years to go.

            This year they are predicting an increase in iron ore production of 14%. In anyone’s language that is a good increase in any industry. The investments will start to pay for themselves.

            As for the auto industry, we just aren’t competitive in the ultra cheap Asian region.

            So, why not put cattle into a paddock and ship them off a year later or go out the back and dig a wheelbarrow load of dirt and sell it?

            Someone has to.

            There is also talk of developing the northwest of the country. If many don’t know this area is the size or larger than Alaska, 4 times the size of Texas or more.

            In this region there are less than 200 000 people. Because it is close to Asia, this region will be the next ‘California’ for the next century in Australia.

      • 0 avatar

        I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss agriculture or mining. They’re more important than pretty much anything else, since nothing can be achieved without them.

      • 0 avatar

        Craig: excellent points. And it’s not just about the loss of jobs. The culture of engineering, innovation and self-reliance dissipates along with this.

        • 0 avatar

          Plenty of engineering, innovation and self-reliance in the First World versions of mining (deep water offshore and ‘fracking’) and agriculture (Monsanto and genetic engineering). Think Denmark (hams??) and New Zealand (sheep?). Maybe Bakken, Eagle Ford and Coober Pedy shale.

  • avatar

    @Derek Kreindler
    You missed the Toyota Hilux which has been the best selling vehicle over the last couple of years and looks like doing the same this year.

  • avatar

    Hey Derek, thanks for the quote!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I’m in no way saying I’m happy with the outcome. I stating what’s occurring.

    We haven’t had a fivefold increase in unemployment, where are the unemployed? We will not lose 325 000 jobs.

    We will still manufacture automotive components to export.

    What is killing us is the assembly line costs more than any other aspect of car manufacture. In fact any labour intensive industry we aren’t competitive at.

    Manufacturing this day and age isn’t what is driving economies. Services represent between 65% and 75% of any modern economy.

    What makes an economy successful is power and control of trade. This is why Australia has a disproportionately strong economy. We exercise significant control over minerals and agri industry. We also have a very advanced bio medical/pharmacutial industry. We are a leader in logistics globally, bulk handling and on and on.

    This is also what is weakening the US balance of power, it’s losing its power/influence in trade. Its still strong, but nothing like it had in the past 70 years.

    Australia has much to offer, losing an unviable industry isn’t going to stop us advance. It will save money.

    Manufacturing or value adding is great…………if you can compete. But in Australia we are happy having the second highest living standard in the world. Why try and reduce that so we can manufacture.

    The rest of a countries economy is made up of ‘local’ attributes that a nation has. Look at France, tourism is a large part of the economy. Korea manufacturing. Australia is mining and agriculture.

    Saying we are a third world economy because of our mining and agriculture is to simplistic.

    Look at what we are achieving elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do the mining/agri and auto manufacturing have to be mutually exclusive? The more variety the stronger, better off is the country.

      If the Germans can sell their cars to China don’t you think Australians can [learn to] be competitive?

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I have consistently stated that HSV and FPV should be marketed globally as a premium GM and Ford product to take on the German prestige auto manufacturers.

        We can’t produce everyday run of the mill vehicles. It is costing twice as much as Korea to produce a Cruze.

        Reality is reality.

        If we were like we were 20-40 years ago yes, the auto industry for everyday hack manufacturing was possible.


        As for agriculture. Australia exports massive amounts of agri industry technology. Biotech in Australia is quite large.

        Australia also has a large tertiary education industry (university).

        As I have also stated Australia has a post industrial economy.

        Any country can have a ‘auto plant’ shipped in and built like in Thailand.

        • 0 avatar

          @Big Al From Oz
          Agree totally the. HSV and FPV are sought after models in Australia, although the base cars are not, being replaced by the “great love in” for SUV’s and CUV’s.
          What you have said in the rest of your reply is we should have a balanced economy with cutting edge products derived from Medicine,Communications(WiFi came from Australia],Services, Agriculture, Tourism as well as High End manufacturing.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            My view there is a market for our performance vehicles globally, more so than US muscle cars. We could sell tens of thousands worldwide.

            This has been proven in the UK with the HSV vehicles. I will bet the Chev SS when it’s released in the US will make a few of the US muscle car diehards realise how good the Commodore platform is.

            FPV make Fords that are as good as or even better than the Mustang, they are more refined as performance vehicles overall.

            Australia should be the performance manufacturer for Ford and GM.

            We really can’t compete with daily drivers, the Thai’s, Sth Africans, Koreans are best suited to that.

            I bet the closet thing we will end up with an Australian performance car is when the global Ranger comes out with a Coyote in it.

          • 0 avatar

            @Big Al from Oz,
            That is what we should have been doing from day one with Performance sedans, but people wanted to hide under a rock rather than promote them,
            Same is happening with Unique RV’s in Australia. I get a lot of inquiries from people in North America saying”where can we get one of those?”. Unfortunately for the local producers it is ‘the too hard basket” ARB being the only exception.
            They are their own worst enemy. I know the fellow who imported this campertrailer from Australia had an article written in a RV magazine in the US about it.
            Still the manufacturer has NOT set up a distribution centre in the US,
            The article in the US was called “The Boondock King”
            Illustration from magazine.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @RobertRyan- The Aussie cars you like ARE American muscle cars! Holden and Ford are American companies.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            I think you have gotten it ass up.

            Some of your muscle cars are Australian muscle cars.

            We do grey import some though.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I’m a believer if you are good at something stick to it. We can produce fantastic performance vehicles and our vehicle design teams as of late have designed very successful vehicles, actually globally recognised vehicles.

        As to selling vehicles to China? Actually I read or heard that the Chinese did buy Holden Caprices (I think) for their government heads.

        The problem with China is will Detroit allow this. Detroit has been screwing their Australian arms for some time now.

        Even GM, which is the better out of Ford and GM, could do more to promote Australian vehicles globally.

        Ford Australia has just recently designed the new Escort to be manufactured in China. It actually should be made globally, but it would replace the Focus.

        Ford hushed up the Escort design story because it had just released it plans to wind down its Australian operations. It wouldn’t make Ford look good in Australians’ eyes.

        GM has a new super charged HSV Commodore that will have the Chev SS for breakfeast. Looking at the expected $100 000 Australian price tag it could be had for $60 000-$70 000 US.

        This thing is a monster and you know what? TTAC hasn’t even done an article on this and it was released only a couple of months ago.

        A potential Corvette, AMG, M Series etc slayer, that’s now good this vehicle is. This looks like one hell of a car. The only tyres they could find to put on it are from a Porche, I don’t which one. They are using aerodynamic technology from Ferarri to keep it on the road. GM has speed limited it to 250km because it’s apparently GMs global policy. But is capable of exceeding 300km. I bet some will bypass the speed limiter.

        Derek Kreindler, Why did TTAC not cover this vehicle.

        • 0 avatar

          We did

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          GM cars are typically speed limited according to the speed rating of the standard tires offered for the powertrain package in the vehicle series. Corvettes and Camaros, standard with high speed rated tires, do not have any speed limiter other than HP versus aero drag!

          German makers reportedly have an informal agreement that speeds be limited to 250KM/hr. Maybe some market for which the Commodore HSV is destined (UK?) has such a requirement.

          The HSV is certainly an incredible car and its awesome supercharged 6.2L powertrain is designed and built in America, btw. It can only “have the SS for breakfast” because GM chooses not to release the engine for the SS, at least at this point. They are essentially the same cars other than fascia and badges.

        • 0 avatar

          @Big Al: an interesting and informative post, and many things about Australia I didn’t know.

          It seem though that you are confirming more than negating the points made by Craig and me: Australians can be competitive, in the areas of interest to them, and those are not limited to agri and mining.

          Let Ford go and make authentic Australian cars for the high end performance segment, against the Germans and others.

          Giving your car manufacturers another chance (aka “looking after your own people first”) is a good thing in my book.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Contrary to popular belief the manufacture of cheap daily drivers is going to become the domain of the developing world.

            Countries can pump billions into their markets, create barriers to protect their auto industries. But, mark my words, it is money ill spent.

            I read with interest the ‘banter’ between the Japanese, Korean, Euro vehicles entering into the US and the levels of protection offered by countries to try and maintain their automotive industrial base.

            What’s around the corner? China.

            Why are we worried about countries that have almost equal standards of living, ie cost base. These markets should be open and if a company can ship a car around the world from an OECD economy to another OECD economy and out compete then the company that can’t compete should close shop.

            The reason why the ‘West’ is going broke is because we subsidise and protect inefficiency.

            When the barriers and protection is stopped the West will resolve most of its economic problems.

            It’s odd the Great Depression is often blamed on the bankers etc, but what caused it was the US coming out of its isolation to challenge the world. It succeeded, like the British did for a couple of centuries.

            Now the world is encountering a similar problem, what do we do, try and carry on as if nothing is happening.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Answering your ‘taking care of the people first’ we do, and the only country that does it better is Norway (at the moment).

            Taking care of our people is not allowing it to become like the US, Eurozone, UK, Japan and the other economies that are in strife.

            That means to have little or no subsidisation of agriculture, manufacturing, etc like we have had for the past 25+ years.

            Whilst these economies with corporate welfare come to terms with their debt levels hopefully Australia will be better off.

            The ‘West’ needs to restructure and let the deadwood fall away. Become efficient and competitive and as a team.

            Or the billions who want to live like us will pass us by.

  • avatar

    Just as an addendum to the broader trade discussion. US manufacturing has stabilized at approximately 12% of GDP over the past 10 years. The trend is ever so slightly UP. This ended a 25 year decline that started with manufacturing at 25% of GDP.

    Robots are the beginning and the end of it all. Sure, nobody has yet invented a competitive robot that can sew, but they can surely cut fabric with laser-like precision. The first world designs and builds the robots.

    Don’t make buggy whips!

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t mind leaving the buggy whips/auto appliances to the lowest cost producer. But that’s not what we are talking about in this case. I think having cars that reflect the national culture that produced them make us all richer. If all we get in the future are homogeneous ‘World Cars’ from a common source this will be a bleak future indeed.

      @Big Al: all I’ll say is that the problem with ‘free market’ is that it’s not a fair play, it’s not as free as billed. (see currency manipulation, wage supperssion etc.) Losing industries is easy, gaining them back (or creating new better ones) is hard.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Car manufacturing isn’t as high tech an industry as you are making out. If that was the case developing nations wouldn’t be a threat to the advanced economies.

        Producing the vehicle design, equipment (robotics) and techniques to manufacture is high tech. But developing nations are right on our heels.

        But then again look at Brazil and the Colorado. It show less advanced economies can and are competing. Brazil also has the 3rd largest airline manufacturer after Boeing and EADS, it’s called Embraer. They do make good aircraft.

        If we want to compete protecting agriculture and basic manufacturing ie, motor vehicles,hammers, wrenches etc is only going to reduce standards of living.

        This is occurring anyway in the West, just look at the European situation or even the US, where the you were better off in 1992.

        Right now Australia is installing a fibre optic network that will reach 97% of homes in the country. That is fibre to the home. This kind of infrastructure will keep us in front.

        Infrastructure is a significant reason for the Wests success ie, simple things road, rail, sewage, power, gas, communitcation, air and on and on.

        Are we investing enough into infrastructure. It will increase business and make it more competitive globally than paying inefficient industries to survive by using borrowing and taxes.

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