The death of the Australian car

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  • In response to a friend tonight on why the sun has set on the mass-produced Australian car (the last was produced in October 2017).

    I think part of the blame lies at Ford’s feet, Stuart. Ford has had a record of under-marketing lines for internal political reasons. They killed the Contour and Mystique (Mondeo) in the US just because it wasn’t developed there, so the cars died out. They claimed that Americans wanted either smaller Focuses or larger Tauruses, all while ignoring the brisk trade BMW was doing on the 3-series. It didn’t explain why Ford would then develop the Fusion and Milan in the same segment, and market them very successfully to decent sales. We know why: they were developed in Dearborn and not Köln.
       With Falcon, we knew Ford never had the will to keep Broadmeadows going. Mondeo outgrew it in wheelbase and width. The cost structures were totally against Ford making a decent profit because [the Falcon] wasn’t developed with any real economies of scale. As Wayne said, Broadmeadows lacked proper investment, too. Never mind that it was a fine car, a better car than the Commodore in most respects. The cost per unit was just too high, and Ford believed it could do Thai, Spanish and Indian sourcing for less. What happened? They under-marketed the Falcon and kept the marketing for the other lines steady, then they could claim that no one was buying E-segment cars.
       Well, Aussies were buying big cars all right—the Mondeo was actually bigger in all measurements but overall length. The Falcon had a two-litre Ecoboost model—to date I have seen two in New Zealand. To me the Falcon was a decent size and the Ecoboost model was a good, modern entry. But if you don’t market—[and] under-supply—then people forget a model line existed.
       Holden didn’t really have much of a choice but to change focus if its costs were going to go up because Australia simply wasn’t geared to just two domestic producers. And with the recession, the Chinese state wound up effectively controlling GM anyway (they certainly do in China, and this is GM’s strongest market), which is why the Buick Envision gets exported out of Shanghai to the US, and they saw Fishermen’s Bend as surplus to their plans.
       Australia was the victim of decisions made elsewhere.

       And more’s the pity. Australian engineers have been ingenious over the years, and they, not their US GM colleagues, were even behind the previous-generation Chevrolet Camaro. Their talent will still be used, albeit in a smaller capacity, for cars made by their parent companies elsewhere.

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