As many will know, I am a petrolhead. I don’t necessarily love a car just because it goes faster than another with more pantomime and fluster. I mean, that’s all good as well, but I appreciate them for their design, the clever engineering that has gone into them and the time and effort it’s taken a massive team of engineers and a gargantuan factory to bring it out to the world, gleaming and giving off all that carcinogenic new car smell from the dash plastics.
But, and this is a big but, Australians seem not to want to buy Australian made cars any more. This has always led me to wonder why. There was a period of time when Australian built cars were, in a word shithouse. The fit and finish was terrible, the mechanical bits were completely out of date and generally, the full package left much to be desired. But then again, cars built in the 70s and 80s were always going to be like that with less automation in manufacturing and assembly and more primitive design methods. But now, of course there are the reasons of poor fuel economy, large cars are too big, lagging technology features and repeated claims of bad quality control.
What I don’t really understand is the first couple of reasons people give. The fuel economy of the Commodore and the Falcon are not really that bad. If the primary reasons that people are forgoing large cars is fuel economy and size, then why do people then go to a dealership and buy an SUV? The logic honestly beggars belief! Hell, as of April 2013, the Territory – a two tonne SUV – is now outselling the Falcon! The two even share the same engine and underpinnings. To balance out the move to SUVs, small cars are also growing at the expense of big cars. This makes some sense, since people now realize they need to average out their fuel usage.
Even on the technology and quality control front, I can’t seem to understand the issues. The Falcon and Commodore are quite advanced in their features, and apart from the latest generation of infotainment systems, the cars are not lacking in modern comforts. Sure, the cars are not as minutely adjustable as say a BMW where you can make your own engine mapping (seriously, who thought that was a good idea?), but the tradeoff is not having to deal with the potentially complex operating system of a car whilst driving. What’s the point of having all those fancy whizzbang features if the requirement is creature comfort whilst traveling? Quality control is not really as bad as people make it out to be. Simply speaking, there will always be vehicles that come out of a factory not quite right. Every car company has those. It’s the legacy of imperfect mass production engineering.
Then, there are the claims of dinosaur engineering because the two leading names have V8s in them. I don’t what the problem with having a V8 is. If someone wants to buy a car with one and can afford the petrol bill, what’s the big deal? It’s not as if the European car companies don’t have V8s in their cars. And here we come to the other question. Is having a European car really that much better? Yes, things are marginally better in an Audi than a Commodore, but servicing, and parts in particular can be insanely expensive and the prices are definitely much higher. The question is, do people honestly think that a barebones German car is worth it over the better equipped Australian built car at the same or lower price point?
I’m not entirely sure what the problem is with our aversion to a home made product, but it is frightening just how quickly Aussies have fallen out of love with cars that have been part of the landscape for decades and embraced the almighty export. Ironically, some of these have even more quality control issues than the cars made here!