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The Australian Car Industry has become a political football. Labor is pouring billions of dollars into keeping Ford, Holden and Toyota manufacturing here. On the other hand, the Liberals have declared this a waste of money (and will cut 500 million dollars of it). They say that when they cancel the already cancelled carbon tax it will solve the problem. They also claim that Labor’s changes to the car fringe benefit tax (which effect imported cars just as much) will disadvantage Australia’s industry further.
I don’t really want to take a side here. I think both policies are overly simplistic. What I want to talk about is the underlying problem. According to the March, 2013 Data Card produced by the government, the automotive manufacturing and its related sectors represents 5.35% of all Australian manufacturing. If the industry leaves or goes under, that’s a lot of jobs, and a lot of GDP.
So, is it likely to go under? Holden and Ford certainly say so. Holden workers have recently voted for a pay freeze in a desperate attempt to keep their factory open. Ford is closing up Australian car manufacturing in 2016. Some claim that the Australian population is simply too small to support a car industry here. Others claim that Ford and Holden simply don’t make good cars. It’s certainly true that the number of cars made in Australia for the Australian market has declined. In less than a decade, the total units produced have decreased from 286,000 (in 2013) to just 135,000 (in 2012). That’s a decrease of 53%, and our production for exports have followed similar trajectories. These numbers are mostly as a result of decreasing demand. In fact, sales of locally made cars are down 26% this year.
A 1976 Holden ad designed for a more pragmatic patriotism.
Is it that the types of cars being made are unappealing to buyers? With three Australian cars inside the top seven cars of 2013, it seems unlikely. Holden’s Cruze and Commodore, and Toyota’s Camry are all good quality, affordable options. Is it that people just don’t think about it? Maybe. So next time you need to buy a car, ask your dealer what was made in Australia. You don’t have to make the choice from that alone, but take the cars for a test drive and give them a chance to impress you.
By Rachael Koch