Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Victory for Homogeny

"You can't tell me it's selling less than the Camry? We have a market full of people with bad taste". From the mouths of babes. Well, A babe; my wife in fact.

This was my wife's response to the news that Ford Australia are ending local manufacturing operations in Australia. Not only is this an end to the Falcon and Territory, but it is the end of an iconic Name plate AND an iconic engine from the 250 cross flow to the BarraTurbo (or seagull as it was known internally because it shat on everything else).

The Ford Falcon, which began Australian assembly in 1960 (essentially in the same place where manufacturing will end in October 2016) has been an Australian stalwart of toughness, comfort, firepower, laughs and silver screen infamy.

What is really lost today, is a piece of Australia uniqueness: a part of our identity. Non-car people don't understand what the Falcon represents to car people. It's a statement of Australians being able to do things better than the rest of the world and do it for less.

Both the Holdens and Fords from the 60's up until now, were developed for our unique environment and on a fraction of the budgets spent by US, Japanese and European counterparts. Were they better? Well, they were tougher. Just ask Opel engineers whom couldn't understand why their cars kept disintegrating on Australian roads in the late 70's, having to be redesigned and toughened by Holden engineers for the then new model Holden Commodore.    

As the vehicles evolved from the 60's, Holden and Ford traded places as Australia's number one sellers. Eventually, both manufacturers became too complacent behind trade barriers. They still had rugged monocoque construction needed to survive in the harsh outback, but, were falling behind in modern technology.

In the 80's, the Australian government moved to lower trade barriers and forced local manufacturers into bed together producing Toyota Commodores (Lexcen), Nissan Utes (Falcon) and Holden Corolla's (Nova) amongst other monstrosities. They fortunately came out the other side (somehow) and had improved economy and safety credentials.

Decade after decade, Holden and Ford followed the ups and down of the Australian economy, evolving their products to ensure that Australians had access to a car they could say was Australian, and, met what was becoming some of the highest safety standards in the world..

The modern result is two world class families of vehicles that are the envy of car people the world over.

Much will be said about new models and greater variety, but we all know it will be more of the same. The same mini van dressed as a Sport Utility Vehicle, the same smart compact cars that you can get from any manufacturer, the same Thailand built utility you can get from many other car lots. All that Ford will have left is brand loyalty..... but I don't think they can bank on that from car people anymore. Come 2017, their lineup will be the envy of no-one.


  1. well written. Is astounding that Holden's are becoming more popular overseas than in their own country.
    Only the Aussie dollar holding them back.
    Ford's and Holden's both produce outstanding cars but most Aussies can't see what is under their noses.

  2. Thanks for your comment Greg. It still seems many are unwilling to support the industry despite Australian automotive manufacturing providing a positive return on investment. We're a victim of our own tall poppy syndrome.