Even legends have to go. Such is the lessons we have learned this January from the rapidly changing Australian market. Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, two of the country’s favourite cars, are both preparing to go out of production before the end of 2016.
Commodore’s 2016 final stop was announced at the Detroit Motor Show by Holden’s Chairman, Mike Devereux, while Ford’s plans to cut down the Falcon’s production on the same year, as well as the possibility to shut the Broadmeadows factory, were announced earlier in 2012.
But farewells are not necessarily diminishing: these cars’ fantastic journey took them on a long and winding road from 1960 (Ford Falcon) and 1978 (Holden Commodore) up until the second decade of the 21st century. And that is certainly some achievement.
So why shouldn’t such glorious models survive the current market environment? Perhaps it’s because of Australian drivers’ changing needs and preferences. With the market becoming increasingly polarised between SUVs and smaller city cars, both models started to look more like remnants of a different era rather than cutting-edge vehicles. On top of that, locally produced cars had to face increasing competition from imported models which were made way more affordable by the increasing strength of the Australian dollar.
The extent of such issues is easy to notice. Over the last decade the figures for both cars decreased steeply, with sales of the Commodore going from just below 90,000 units sold in 2003 to about 30,000 in 2012, while the Falcon went from over 70,000 to just above 10,000 during the same period.
Such numbers eventually backed the case of stopping production rather than upgrading the existing facilities: for what concerns Holden, developing a new engine and upgrading the current factory to produce it would cost $300 million. Even importing a foreign engine would be much cheaper.
All in all, the story is a pretty simple one: times have changed, two cars have not been able to adapt and are subsequently going out of business. But this is all part of the game: Holden will turn to a new medium-size, four-cylinder car at the in 2017.
What’s perhaps a bit more worrying is Ford’s position in the country, with no clear evidence of whether Ford will continue building any new models in Australia after 2016.