It has been a long time coming but today has probably been inevitable since the 1960’s.
Today, Friday 20 October 2017 is the date mass manufacturing ceased in Australia.
General Motors – Holden followed Toyota and Ford today when they ceased local production and the last locally manufactured Automobile rolled off their South Australian assembly line.
Many readers may not remember or even know that Australia was a manufacturer of white goods. Washing Machines, Dryers, Refrigerators rolled off production lines in numbers that met the demands of a population buoyed by post war prosperity. Our homes and businesses were full of appliances manufactured locally, kettles, toasters and even lawn mowers.
We also manufactured radios and record players and other electronics.
And of course, we made cars.
Our manufacturing industries were highly protected by import tariffs. This protection resulted in our industries failing to keep up with world quality and process practices. This left us highly vulnerable to quality goods that were able to be produced offshore at a cost that still made them price competitive even after tariffs were paid. The Japanese did it better.
It was the same with our automotive industry when Japanese brands became acceptable.
Competition drives innovation and continuous improvement. We had neither.
The Hawke/Keating Governments recognised the damage tariffs were doing and set out to progressively remove them. This came in conjunction with the plans devised by then Industry Minister, John Button to support the Industry with the 3 Car Brand Policy. It was a sound, sensible and well implemented policy framework.
The result was, we started to produce quality, world class motor vehicles but eventually, other factors became evident. Korean vehicles, a GFC, high dollar value to name a few.
Ultimately, it was determined the extent of Government subsidisation needed to maintain a local Auto presence was too high. The merits of this decision will be debated for many years to come.
The cold hard fact is, we largely stopped buying our locally made vehicles.
As a community, we used to be split down the middle. You were a Ford or a Holden family.
Mine was a Holden family. I have personally owned or had custody of 9 Holdens.
My passion for the brand did not diminish, I just stopped buying them in favour of European vehicles.
I was sad to see the last Commodore to be built locally come off the production line today. It marks the end of an era.
Equally, it signals the start of another era and a chance for our innovators to create.
Thank you, Holden, for many of the memories of my youth.