These 10 Charts On The Australian Car Industry Show Why Holden Was Doomed

Getty/ Morne de Klerk

Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mike Devereux said in a press conference after announcing an end to its Australian manufacturing arm that the industry was “witnessing a huge shift in the automotive market in this country” and “building cars in this country is just not sustainable”.

But this has been coming for a long time. Here are 10 statistics from Department of Industry’s annual survey of Australian motor vehicle producers that show why.

1. Sales of domestically-produced cars have been sliding for years

The glory days are long gone.

In eight years Australian-made car sales have halved, falling to a record lows in 2012.

Passenger motor vehicle (PMV) production peaked in 2004 with about 408,000 units. The lowest was in 2009, at about 145,000. Total production in 2012 was about 221,000 (industry estimates).

Production for the domestic market peaked in 2003 with around 286,000 units.

Domestic market production in 2012 was about 135,000, the lowest number for the decade.

Production for export markets peaked in 2005 with approximately 142,000 units.

The lowest production number for exports was in 2009 with at around half that level. Export production in 2012 was around 86,000.

2. The industry's contribution to the economy has been sliding, too

Bucketloads of taxpayer cash were probably the only local motor industry financial figures trending upwards over the past decade.

Holden received $1.8 billion in state and federal government handouts between 2001 and 2012. Meanwhile, after peaking at just under $9 billion in 2004, the value of local production has fallen by around one-third to just over $5 million in 2012.

3. Private car buyers are only half the market...

For many years, the Holden Commodore remained the nation's top selling car courtesy of fleet buyers, who were responsible for an estimated 70 per cent of sales. When Holden released the VF Commodore earlier in 2013, it offered discounts in a bid to attract family buyers, hoping to shift the balance to 50/50.

Private passenger motor vehicle (PMV) buyers remain the largest category, followed by fleet passenger sales, but the combination of private and fleet sports utility vehicle buyers are rapidly moving towards a third of total sales.

4 ... And they're increasingly buying imported cars, not Fords or Holdens.

Over the past 15 years, both Holden and Ford have seen their market share halve. While the Commodore was once the nation's top-selling car, earlier this year, it slipped out of the top 10.

5. Production has been steadily falling

Just in eight years, domestic sales of the Commodore have fallen by by nearly two-thirds, dropping by almost half in the five years between 2003 and 2008, at which point the blow hit harder as export sales all but vanished.

In the last two years, the domestically-produced Cruze stepped in to improve total Holden sales, but most of it was covering another 20,000 drop in the Commodore market.

6. The bigger family car is not necessarily better

Petrolheads might love seeing the V8s ripping around Bathurst, but at home, they ain't buying it. Large car sales halved in five years, with the market share falling from 13.3 per cent in 2008 to just 5.7 per cent in 2012, driving the Commodore and Falcon off the cliff in the process. The SUV market has been the runaway success of the last few years. They are all imported.

7. Domestic car makers have not been profitable for years...

8. ... and the numbers haven't been showing any improvement.

It's been a long time since Holden or Ford sent any money back to dad in Detroit (or Mitsubishi, since departed). Over the past nine years, the Australian industry has posted a combined $4.374 billion in losses.

9. Australian cash is being spent on imported cars, passing $25 billion last year...

We're spending our money on imports, passing the $25 billion mark for the first time in 2012, a jump of nearly 25 per cent on 2011.
And in contrast to exports (see below) our appetite for imported car suffered a much smaller drop in 2009 and the following year, the value of imports returned to pre-GFC levels.

10. And here is the last part of Holden's 'perfect storm': the export collapse.

Exports ground to a halt with the advent of the GFC, with vehicle sales value halving, from a little over $4 billion in 2008, to around $1.9 billion in 2009. Sales have hovered around that mark since then, showing no real recovery. The persistently high Australian dollar of recent years has compounded the misery.

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