The End of an Era – the Last Australian Built Car Rolls Off Production
Last month marked the end of Australian car manufacturing with the final Holden Commodore rolling off the production line. This followed the announcement, seven days earlier, of the new ZB Commodore VXR, to be manufactured by Opel in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
Holden may have been the last manufacturer to close, but it had company, Toyota shifted production from Australia only weeks before, and Ford closed its doors only 12 months earlier. The loss of Australian car manufacturing is estimated to total a loss of over 50,000 jobs locally from manufacturing, part supplies and auxiliary services.
So why did such a thriving industry have to move away from Australia? Unsurprisingly it comes down to costs. Australia has higher wages and coupled with low to zero import tariffs, manufacturing abroad makes more commercial sense.
But, this wasn’t unexpected. The industry has been receiving over $5 billion in tax payer assistance the last ten years. The writing was on the wall, manufacturing has long needed to move overseas to remain competitive.
Further, you could argue those jobs lost were already on borrowed time with manufacturers moving to fully automated production. BMW has been investing in fully automated vehicle assembly, with plans to build automation into the relatively unautomated final-assembly in its plants. Tesla is promising to move to entirely automated factories. Other manufacturers may be slower to move towards full automation, but jobs are already being replaced and automation is expected to increase to take over the majority, if not all employment, on the production line.
So, what does this mean for us, in Australia?
When it comes to purchasing a car, not much. Prices should remain the same, or even become more affordable.
It does mean we lose the pride of being able to drive locally manufactured cars, but this is part of a bigger shift, manufacturing is leaving Australia. But, that doesn’t mean we lose the industry, Holden may have moved production, but specialised designers and engineers will remain. Your next car may not be built here, but it still may be Australian designed.