With Ford Australia’s Falcon ending production this year and the Holden Commodore following next year, there has been ample speculation as to why our automotive industry is moribund and why the big Aussie sedan has gone from hometown hero to zero. Perhaps this picture helps sum it up: a standard-size Holden, an HR from 1966-68, next to a 2009-16 Cruze. If you think they look almost identical in size, you are absolutely right.
In fact, the similarity in size is uncanny. The HR sedan was 181.1 inches long with a 106-inch wheelbase; width and height were 70 and 58.3 inches, respectively. The Cruze measures 181 inches long with a 105.7-inch wheelbase; width and height are 70.4 inches and 58.1 inches. It seems the Aussie sedan just kept growing and growing until it reached its current size, while compacts similarly grew until they reached their sweet spot. Indeed, compacts – or “small cars” in Australian parlance – are far and away the most popular vehicle segment in Australia today, occupying around 20% of the total market. Industry body VFACTS divvies up the market into different segments and in 2015, the second most popular segment – “medium SUVs”, eg the Mazda CX-5 – was a distant second at 12.5%.
Sadly, even the Australian manufacture and slight re-engineering of the Cruze – Holden’s first locally-built small car since 1996 – wasn’t enough to save our ailing industry. The Cruze has sold well but in a fiercely competitive segment it hasn’t been able to shake the indefatigable Toyota Corolla and hugely popular Mazda3 and Hyundai i30. So, for those that speculate our industry died because the automakers “didn’t build cars people would buy”, well, they tried and you still didn’t buy enough of them to keep the industry alive.