Business

Australian icons leave scene over protracted time

GOOD TIMES: The Holden Commodore was introduced at a time of healthy vehicle manufacture.
GOOD TIMES: The Holden Commodore was introduced at a time of healthy vehicle manufacture. GM

FOOTBALL, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars!

The football the song writers had in mind in the seventies was Aussie Rules.

Now the mighty AFL, the negative press centring on payments, drugs, king hits and racism in the sport seems endless.

Meat pies have been replaced by Yankee burgers on sugary, insipid buns, not bread rolls, as our favoured method of tracking towards a heart attack.

And Holden cars well you now know where they're going to. That leaves kangas as the only unsullied Aussie icon - as long as you don't speak to farmers having to contend with the awful damage they do.

The Commodore's passing is particularly sad for me as I finally succumbed to its attraction after 43 years of buying ridiculously expensive imported vehicles from Germany, Italy, Great Britain and Japan.

And my 3.6L V6 with skirts that give it a sporty look has been just great.

The car has travelled 92,000km mainly between Brisbane and Gladstone on that disgraceful dog track called the Bruce Hwy.

The bodywork wears the scars and those of a couple of silly car park bingles, but for a very large car, driven hard, the Commodore has averaged 9.3L per 100km and there is not a squeak or rattle anywhere.

They say the new VF model is even better offering punters the most advanced technology ever provided in an Aussie-built car.

But the Commodore had to go: simply because Australians haven't been buying them.

In 2011 when I bought mine, I was one of just 41,429 people who did so - 12% down on 2010.

The Aussie icon was actually pipped by the little Mazda 3 by 812 sales. An even worse fate befell the Falcon and Aussie-built Toyota Camry. Ford sold just 18,741 units, Toyota 19,169.

The debate will rage, probably for half a generation, as to whether the car industry in Australia should have been be propped up by government. Senator John Button thought so in the 1980s when he shelled out enormous amounts of money and installed protective tariffs to keep the industry afloat. Something that I for one thought was more than a little odd given the economic tenet of the Hawke government was to open Australia up to competition.

Of course, the Hawke government was trying a balancing act between the unions and capital at the time and one of the strongest unions around was the AMWU, the very one blamed today for having too much say in how the car industry was run, having negotiated unrealistically high worker rewards in loss-making

businesses.

I caught former Labor strongman and latterly media commentator Graham Richardson the other day. His view is interesting.

He reckons governments should not prop up old-world industry, but concentrate its efforts on fostering new-age industries with future

prospects.

I inferred that he was saying forget building cars and concentrate on supplying the world with componentry. An interesting concept threatened in reality by high wages and a high dollar, I should think.

Topics:  bob lamont, cars news, holden



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