Apart from those who object to the use of public money to keep factories owned by overseas interests open only in the name of jobs and not viability, there’s the pesky notion that customers have sound, hip-pocket reasons and commercial considerations underpinning the desertion of Holden and Ford's locally made cars by formerly loyal customers.
Business and government fleets have been for decades the foundation upon which Holden and Ford’s factory outputs have been based. (When you own a factory, the pesky imperative is that production must equal sales – and customers buying dozens of cars at a time are a real asset when it comes to meeting production/sales targets.)
Businesses have increasingly green agendas, and these extend to fleet purchasing policies. Big, heavy cars that drink like a sailor on shore leave (despite claims to the contrary) with big six and V8 engines not only no longer appeal – they no longer even comply with many government and business fleet buying fundamental prerequisites.
Not only that, but the mass and the engines means Australian-made cars are bigger carbon emitters than imported offerings. Read the independent report on Aussie made car CO2 emissions here. Additionally, local manufacturers have successfully delayed the adoption of stricter exhaust emissions regulations already in place elsewhere in the developed world - and that means Aussie-made cars are not only generally less green than those made elsewhere, they generally also have the dirtiest exhaust emissions. So it's pretty hard to justify buying one in business if the outfit you work for has a halfway decent sustainability policy.
The big, Aussie car is simply no longer a superior proposition – especially as small cars offer tonnes of room, five-star safety, great performance and all the fruit. (Back in the Eighties, they didn’t – they were cramped and nasty. That’s all changed.)
Increasingly, fleet operators are finding it a better deal to buy a more efficient, lower emitting, better built imported car. It’s that simple.
Private buyers have always copped it in the neck, financially, when they buy a big Aussie car. For starters, fleet customers have always been offered mega-discounts to keep the numbers up. So private buyers – mums and dads, basically – historically paid a significant premium for their Commodores and Falcons.
Then, at the other end of the deal, the fleet operators’ discount is already factored in to the trade-in price. That means a three-year-old fleet car gets traded-in cheap – something that drives the trade-in price of your privately-owned Commodore or Falcon through the floor.
So, if you’re a loyal private buyer, you get burned by the up-front premium price, then you get exsanguinated at trade-in time.
Given the choice, and the quality of the offerings elsewhere in the market, is it any wonder why private buyers are walking away from large, Australian-made cars? Hell, if you want a roomy, functional, efficient, large vehicle, buy one of 30 modern diesel SUVs – it’ll be more practical in every respect, it’ll cost you about the same up front, and it won’t depreciate like a stuck pig.