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Top Gear’s James May backs Australian car industry

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    Australian car production is at its lowest level since 1957 – in what will be an all-time record year for new car sales.

The struggling Australian car manufacturing industry has found an unlikely friend in 'Captain Slow'.

Top Gear TV’s James May – known as the more technically-minded member of the three presenters, and the slowest driver – has said Australia shouldn’t “write off” its car-making abilities. May, who heads to Australia in March for Top Gear Festival in Sydney with motor mouth Jeremy Clarkson, said the UK industry has bounced back after decades in decline.

Australian car production is at its lowest level since 1957 – in what will be an all-time record year for new car sales. Local makers Toyota, Holden and Ford are battling against imported cars that are benefitting from the strong Australian dollar. “I think Australia should [manufacture vehicles],” May told News Limited in a phone interview.

“It would be truly sad [if it were to die],” he said. “Human kind’s lot is only ultimately improved by manufacturing. We couldn’t even become farmers until we made some tools. It’s important.” He said Australians should not give up hope of a revival. “I wouldn’t write it off forever, it might be a temporary hiatus,” he said. “I think it will come back.

“You’ve probably been through the same thing we’ve been through in the last 20 to 30 years believing that industry can fade out and we can replace it with services, and financial this, that and the other. “But then we gradually started to realise, hang on, no, that by itself isn’t good enough. And now some manufacturing is taking off again in Britain.

We’ve become good at making satellites, we’ve got some quite good electronic manufacturers.” May says he and Clarkson are fans of the V8 versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, which are unique to Australia and New Zealand.

“I’ve driven the Falcon GT and the Monaro and the [HSV Clubsport] and I loved them,” he said. “I like raw muscle. When you spend a lot of time in Italian supercars, which are very buzzy and quite demanding, a big grunty engine in a proper shaped car does make you appreciate the enormity of Australia.”
 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 15 comments

  • It's a little more complicated than just "Buying Aussie". The Mazda 3 and 6 provided an alternative to what Holden couldn't provide in quality - Small to medium sized cars. Holden tried with the Astra and Vectra, but those turned out to be terrible cars with high maintainence costs that ultimately gave Holden a bad rep. And the worst part was that they weren't built in Australia. Now we're, in part, suffering from the blow back effect of that. Then there's the whole resale issue of locally made cars due to fleet car sales. Rumour's of Holden's decision to discontinue the commodore for a smaller frontwheel drive replacement is staggering. After spending time and money on RnD for their rear wheel platform, why take a step back and compete in a market where your competitors are years ahead on front wheel drive research. How many people would love to have a medium sized Mazda 6 alternative?

    Arty Posted on 14 February 2013 10:55am
  • As always, we in Australia get absolutley ripped off, when buying a car, is no different. We are treated like immature and incompetents by the Australian retail sector. However, now slowly people are starting to see it, as can be shown by the online shopping changes. Australian retailers are having a crack at online, but they just dont get it, and are doing it all wrong. . . I would love to buy my car online from overseas, but we get penalised too hard with customs excises. Are we a third world country ? or what ? Why can I not buy a Toyota 4 Runner in Australia anymore ? It is all wrong. . .

    Robert of Melbourne Posted on 11 February 2013 9:42am
  • As always, we in Australia get absolutley ripped off, when buying a car, is no different. We are treated like immature and incompetents by the Australian retail sector. However, now slowly people are starting to see it, as can be shown by the online shopping changes. Australian retailers are having a crack at online, but they just dont get it, and are doing it all wrong. . . I would love to buy my car online from overseas, but we get penalised too hard with customs excises. Are we a third world country ? or what ? Why can I not buy a Toyota 4 Runner in Australia anymore ? It is all wrong. . .

    Robert of Melbourne Posted on 11 February 2013 9:42am
  • As always, we in Australia get absolutley ripped off, when buying a car, is no different. We are treated like immature and incompetents by the Australian retail sector. However, now slowly people are starting to see it, as can be shown by the online shopping changes. Australian retailers are having a crack at online, but they just dont get it, and are doing it all wrong. . . I would love to buy my car online from overseas, but we get penalised too hard with customs excises. Are we a third world country ? or what ? Why can I not buy a Toyota 4 Runner in Australia anymore ? It is all wrong. . .

    Robert of Melbourne Posted on 11 February 2013 9:41am
  • Modern SUV's are a con. They are jacked up medium size cars that are marketed as lifestyle cars. They still only carry 5 people and most have tiny rear boot areas. And lets remember most of them aren't real 4WD's and will never see a dirt road. BUY Australian. A Holden station wagon will easily transport a family in style and comfort, whilst doing great things for Australian business. Don't be fooled.

    Glenn of Sydney Posted on 11 February 2013 9:29am
  • I am currently driving A (Base Model admittedly) VE Commodore. Anyone who says this is a good car has rocks in there head. It rolls like a boat. It doesn't turn well. The steering has no feed back. It doesn't stop very well. Its drivers seat feels like I can feel a steel bar somewhere in my back. It has an SIDI engine (supposedly economical) that gives shoddy fuel economy. The drive by wire gets lost sometimes. The engine makes a lot of noise, revs up and down like hell but delivers nothing but noise. We can do better (We have done better) but the last incarnations have been totally shoddy. Thats why we chose to buy others. My wife's 2007 Mitsubishi 380 is an excellent car and Australian Made. It does all of the above with flying colours. I think that if they held on a little longer the 380 would have survived the Rear wheel drive snobbery that it suffered from ( Probably a result of the V8 Super car brigade). I think we are better to let them go and get a fresh start from some Ozy fresh blood rather than keep spending taxes on these government sponsored overseas loafers. THEY ARE NOT AUSTRALIAN ANYWAY.

    Edward of Melbourne Posted on 09 February 2013 4:22pm
  • I've got 2 young kids so we need space for prams, bags, family holidays etc. We bought a Magna wagon and it's brilliant, not as roomy inside as Falcon or Commodore but okay with little ones and dual fuel is brilliant, boot is still big enough for loads of gear even with the spare wheel in there. It was made in Australia, enough space, and doesn't hog the road and block visibility like SUVs do. No way would I buy one, it's wagons for me and that means a second hand Falcon in future (no new wagon = sad face) or a Sportwagon. When you have kids and/or large hobbies wagons are great. Buy Aussie, save money, support your local industry and don't hog the damn road with your jacked up soft roader that nobody can see around or through!

    Wagonfan Posted on 29 November 2012 1:30pm
  • Love our family BF falcon wagon, it's a gem on duel fuel. As for small cars, the only decent drive is the Focus/Fiesta as holden small cars are now rubish. I have a 2007 1.5 turbo from Japan too and love it.

    Andy of Qld Posted on 27 November 2012 4:04pm
  • I find it Kinda funny, people go and bag out "large Cars", yet as an accessory fitter of roof racks, luggage boxes and towbars, the most common reason for the purchase of these items is they need more space........Go Figure! I had a person walk into the shop, get a towbar fitted to his VW Tiguan and the Anderson plug to power his Fridge in the caravan he was going to tow. He was planning to go bush with this mighty little urban SUV, I wonder if he's still out there. Another person came in, chest out and proud of the Jeep cherokee ooops GRAND CHEROKEE, that they had purchased, only to find out that the max load rating on the roof racks was 68 kilos.....they wanted to put a basket(20 kg) and a 80 kilo tent....this one was another one who wanted to go bush in a nice shiny BLACK GRAND CHEROKEE BUY A LANDY if you want heavy duty or if you want to go bush and if you didn't spend your hard earned on expensive to repair imports you could afford a ROOMY LOCAL!

    ANDIMTHEDUMMY of Sinney Posted on 15 November 2012 10:22pm
  • I bought my first Holden earlier this year. 1997 VT, with 135 000 km on it. I have had Volvo 240s, Toyota Corolla's and a BA Falcon, and this is by far one of the best vehicles I have owned. Plenty of power on tap, uber cheap spare parts, comfy on the long drives and easy to maintain at home. Good on the fuel if driven properly. The only let down is that Holden chose the Koreans to manufacture the seats and roof lining, which have all seen much better days, though they improved on the VX and later models. I was once a brand snob and now do my bit for Holden, because I truly now believe they make an excellent product and that they should be in everyone's driveway. I would love to see Holden do more than just cars. Some decent commercial vans, trucks and heavy vehicles and machinery would be nice to see.

    Paul0075 of Dubbo NSW Posted on 14 November 2012 2:41pm
  • It's because a lot of people a stupid. People will happily ridicule the locally mades as 'dinosaurs' due to their apparently thirsty engines and the car's large size in general, but then go out and spend 10's of thousands more on some 2.5 tonne SUV with an even worse fuel consumption rating. I mean, to each his own fair enough but I can barely stand it when people will ridicule our locally mades (which international motoring bodies, even ones other than Top Gear, will happily state are great cars) but then turn a blind eye to the short falls of imports. I think we're just so narrow minded in this country.

    alex Posted on 13 November 2012 7:51pm
  • Thank you 7.0V8 at last someone with some common sense. I wouldn't swap my Monaro for any other car

    Aussie and proud of Australia Posted on 12 November 2012 4:35pm
  • Australia, makes some great cars and I cant see why people are buying imports and supporting other countries and not their fellow Australians.

    Dave S Posted on 12 November 2012 4:31pm
  • Exactly, charity begins at home, buy Australian

    The Realist Posted on 12 November 2012 2:59pm
  • When we took away the import tariff we gave away the sales ,the jobs, mind you I do not own an import and never will, driven plenty, but I will keep my V8 Statesman and will buy another V8 just because I can, So when people loose jobs the ones to look too are the ones driving the imports, everything is a choice.

    7.0V8 of Brisbane Posted on 10 November 2012 8:39pm
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