Manufacturers fight as Australia turns back on locally made cars

It might be hard to remember the glory days of Australian automotive manufacturing, especially with the release of official new car sales figures that show Australians prefer foreign manufactured imported vehicles over locally made ones.

According to the latest sales figures, more than eight out of every 10 vehicles sold last month were manufactured overseas.

In August, 88,082 vehicles were sold in the Australian market, of that 73,891 were imported from Asia, Europe and the Americas. These figures represent an 84 per cent share imported cards hold in local market car sales.

The number of Australian manufactured cars sold in the month of August accounted for 16 per cent market share (14,191 vehicles)

Foreign manufactured imported vehicles, including Japan’s Mazda recorded a 41 per cent increase in August sales for the same period on last year with 9,138 Mazda cars sold in the Australian market.

Locally manufactured car sales have been on the slide for some time. In 2005, locally made vehicles represented more than one in four vehicles sold, according to industry VFACTS figures.

This year to date, Ford has reported 9,811 fewer locally made car sales on last year, while Toyota figures show a 5,610 drop in vehicle sales.

Holden appears to be the only automotive manufacturer in the green having added the Cruze to its portfolio.

Toyota looks likely to follow with the launch of its seventh-generation Camry, which will be manufactured locally for the Australian market. Production on Toyota’s news Camry range is expected to commence next year.

Speaking with Manufacturers’ Monthly, Toyota Australia says that automotive manufacturing could help to reinvigorate Australia’s ailing manufacturing industry beyond economic booms and dips.

The automotive giant said that industry policy settings which are forward-thinking and long-term will help drive a sustained automotive manufacturing future in Australia.

“Industry policy settings which recognise the needs of the automotive sector are vital to assist the sector to attract future investment and to adapt and become more competitive in a reduced volume environment; an environment characterised by a strong Australian currency, increased regulation and carbon constraints,” Toyota Australia media spokesperson Laura Hill said.

“For Toyota Australia to compete for and attract future investment, industry policy settings at both State and Federal level must be long term, reliable, flexible and suit the specific needs of the sector, being one characterised by cyclical development phases, long lead times and very high capital cost and intensiveness."

Hill adds that these policy settings should allow transition through the current challenging market situation including co-investment support to attract critical strategic projects. It should also include automotive component supplier specific policies and programs to facilitate accelerated consolidation and rationalisation of the automotive components sector, as well as assistance to develop diversification opportunities and access to debt finance, she said.