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Four Wheeled Multiculturalism.

australian_flag_3Much has been made of the fact that, for such a relatively small population base, Australia has one of the highest number of car brands to choose from.  Sure, it’s a case of overkill but in the light of Australia Day, let’s have a look at our multicultural automotive range.

Home Grown
Holden
Holden has to be a first up runner with a history that goes back to the 1850s. James Alexander Holden emigrated to South Australia from the The V8 SupercarsU.K. and established a saddlery business. In the early years of the twentieth century the firm had evolved to perform carriage building and upholstery repairs before establishing a body building facility in 1919. By 1923 they were producing around 12000 shells, including for Ford Australia whilst their own factory was being completed. 1926 saw General Motors (Australia) established after two years of Holden Motor Body Builders producing for GM. It was 1931 when GM bought out the firm and it became General Motors-Holden. Apart from the locally built Commodore, the range is either Korean sourced (Malibu, Barina, Captiva) or world car based (Volt and Cruze).

Ford Australia
Ford Australia was established in the mid 1920s, as the Australian arm of the American owned Canadian branch. At the time, Ford Canada was a separate entity to Ford North America, with Henry Ford granting building rights to Commonwealth countries for Canadian investors. Of note was the release of the coupe utility in 1934 and the engineered for Australia Falcon. The “ute” as it’s famously become to be known, was born outCoupe utility of the Depression era need to perform dual duties, moving both family and livestock plus, as a working vehicle, became eligible for loans to farmers as passenger cars were seen as a luxury. Like Holden, Ford Australia sources virtually all of the vehicles from overseas; think Fiesta or Focus and, of course, the recent announcement of the Mustang returning as a Ford backed product for here.

Toyota Australia
Although it can be argued, that as a Japanese owned company, it’s not strictly Australian, that argument could be applied to both Ford and Holden. For the sake of expediency, I’ll leave that alone.
The Australian history of Toyota goes back to the 1950s and the Snowy Mountains hydro electric project, with Thiess Toyota importing the LandCruiser for the project. Production of Australian made Toyotas was underway by 1963, out of Port Melbourne by Australian Motor Industries. corolla-1965In 1972 Toyota bought out the share in AMI that British Leyland held and by 1978 was producing engines for export. In 1986 the first Australian Toyota car was exported, to New Zealand whilst in 1994 the vehicle manufacturing section had shifted to Altona, Victoria. Currently Toyota Australia continues to build the Camry and Aurion in Australia and imports a range of other vehicles including the legendary Corolla nameplate and the tough as guts HiLux.

There’s also HSV (Holden Special Vehicles), HDT-SV (Holden Dealer Team Special Vehicles) and the now defunct, in their own right, Ford Performance Vehicles.

World Brands
Mitsubishi Australia is now, alongside Nissan Australia, full importers of the Japanese brands vehicles into Australia. Mitsubishi-Lancer-Evolution-GSR-PictureNissan, originally known as Datsun, first came to Australia in the 1950s whilst Mitsubishi Australia came into being in 1980 after taking over the Australian arm of American brand, Chrysler. Both companies built vehicles here and now, as full importers, continue to offer cars covering most segments of the Aussie market, including the long running nameplate Lancer, Triton, 370Z and Navara, just to name a few.
Mazda is perhaps one of the biggest Japanese brands selling in Australia, with the Mazda3 the best known. Alongside is the CX5, a better packaged entity than the now discontinued CX7, plus the multi-award winning Mazda6 and solid BT-50 platform shared with Ford’s Ranger.
Honda is another major Japanese brand for Australia, with the local operation dating back to 1981. Based in Tullamarine, north of Melbourne. Their current range includes the multi award winning Odyssey, the Jazz and the long name plated Civic. Isuzu (trucks and 4wd utes), Infiniti (Nissan’s luxury arm), Subaru, Suzuki, Lexus and even Yamaha are other Japanese brands currently available in the automotive market here in Australia, with vehicles such as the Liberty, Swift, IS 250 and Yamaha’s all terrain vehicles.

From Korea comes Kia and Hyundai, with the former part owned by Hyundai (nearly 33%). Kia goes back to 1944 and gained traction in 1986 by coproducing cars with Ford. Hyundai dates back to 1967 as a motor company but even further back, to 1947 as the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company. Models currently include the Sorento/Santa Fe, Sportage/ix35 and Cerato/Optima/i30/i40 models. There’s also SsangYong, perhaps better known for their “unique” vehicle designs such as the Stavic and Korando.

In the UK there’s a long and distinguished historical link to Australia when it comes to cars. Small open cockpit cars such as the Caterham, Westfield and Lotus 7 butt up against Jaguar with their XJ/XF/XK range of luxury and sports oriented models,jag f type hard top plus their new F-Type convertible and hard top. Long time stable mates Land Rover chime in with their range, such as the Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery, the glorious looking Evoque and the tough as nails Defender. There’s the stunningly gorgeous Aston Martin family, including the DB9, Rapide and the blindingly beautiful Vantage. For something quirky, there’s old timer Morgan with their quirky three wheeler of the monstrous Aero Supersports, plus speed kings McLaren with the 12C and, of course, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and the (BMW produced) Mini. For race car lovers, based out of Sydney Motorsport Park at Eastern Creek, is the Radical brand, a two wheeled Le Mans style open cockpit firebreather.

reventonThe Australian market certainly loves the Europeans, with brands such as: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen all long termers and the recent reappearance/disappearance of Opel from Germany being found here, plus the once one car brand but now diverse Porsche (911/Cayman/Boxster/Cayenne and the forthcoming Macan); Renault/Citroen/Peugeot from France; Maserati, Fiat, Lamborghini, the legendary Ferrari sports cars and Alfa Romeo from Italy plus, rarely but expensively, Pagani. A brand seen as a leading exponent of safety in their cars, Volvo, have maintained a presence here. Volvo, founded in 1927, hail from Sweden and were once renowned for producing boxy looking designs. Once owned by American giant, Ford, and now owned by Chinese conglomerate Geely, the brand offers cars from small (V40) to large all wheel drives such as the XC90. The other well known Swedish maker, SAAB, are currently undergoing a substantial restructure after going bankrupt and then bought by Hong Kong based National Electric Vehicles Sweden.Citroen ds3

Not unexpectedly, the Americans have a sizeable presence, with Chrysler presenting the 300C, chrysler-300-srtthe Jeep range (think Wrangler and Grand Cherokee), Dodge Journey (shared with the Fiat Freemont), Chevrolet (predominantly imported cars such as the Camaro and SUVs range), the mooted return of Cadillac, Ford US (again predominantly SUVs or models shared with other companies such as Mazda) and the sporty Mosler. On the other side of the planet comes Tata, owner of the Tata-Tuff-Truck-Front-3-4finalWJaguar/Land Rover group, with the recent introduction of the Xenon 4×4 dual cab ute, against the Chinese Great Wall range of SUV and 4×2/4×4 single and double cab utes. There’s Geely as well, plus Chery, both recent entrants to an already crowded market place.

Clearly, when it comes to automotive brands, Australia truly is a diverse mix and and four wheeled multicultural one at that.

One comment

  1. James says:

    I love that Land Rover is here in Australia – the rugged body is great for driving in the bush. It’s a shame about Holden, though.

    February 20th, 2014 at 7:56 am