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Ford and Holden 2.0: The new Australian-made cars that will make the Commodore and Falcon look like dinosaurs

Aussie manufacturing is undergoing a resurgence.

When Ford and Holden finally shut-up shop in Australia a few years back, it seemed like the curtain had permanently closed on the golden age of Aussie automotive manufacturing, given the formerly homegrown heroes were the last two marques still building cars Down Under.

It was too expensive, they said. Labor costs were too high, and our buying market too small, and somewhere along the line the numbers just didn’t add up.

But fast-forward to 2021 and Australia’s automotive manufacturing space in the midst of something of a resurgence. From vehicles that will be built here from the ground up to cars that are re-engineered for our market, options for Australian Made vehicles will soon abound.

Here are five brands either building vehicles here, or planning on it, to keep an eye on.

Nexport/BYD

The BYD Tang-based ute rendered The BYD Tang-based ute rendered

It's not yet building cars in Australia, but Nexport says its investment in Chinese EV brand BYD could see the company building an all-electric ute in Australia (and more specifically, in NSW) as early as 2023.

The vehicle is still in rolling prototype stage, but the company has already invested in land in Moss Vale that it sees as its future manufacturing hub, and Nexport says it wants to see BYD become a top-five player in Australia, helped massively by the inclusion of a dual-cab ute in its line-up.

“It’s not as wild as a Tesla Cybertruck," Nexport boss, Luke Todd, says of the new ute. "It will actually be a very desirable, practical, and very spacious dual-cab pick-up or ute.

"It's hard to work out whether we want it to call it a ute or a pick-up. Obviously models like the Rivian R1T are pick-ups, and it's more in that kind of vein than it is a classical Holden or Ford ute.

"This is more like a luxury vehicle that also happens to have the carrying capacity at the back.”

ACE EV Group

The ACE X1 Transformer is several vehicles in one The ACE X1 Transformer is several vehicles in one

South Australia-based ACE EV Group has the commercial vehicle market in its sights, having already begun taking orders for its Yewt (ute), the Cargo and its passenger car offering, the Urban.

If you thought the Hyundai Santa Cruz was small, wait til you get a load of the bite-sized, single-cab Yewt, which can carry 500kg, travel up to 100km/h and deliver a range of up to 200km from its 30kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Both the Cargo and the Urban are undeniably quirky, too, but the group's first true mainstream offering will be the X1 Transformer, a van built on a modular architecture that will serve up the traditional short and long wheelbase, and high and low roof, and can even spawn a ute.

The fascinating part, is that it can become any one of the vehicles above in just 15 minutes.

"For busy freight companies with their major distribution centres, the X1 enables them to fit a pre-packed module straight onto its electric platform and be on its way in 15 minutes," says ACE boss, Greg McGarvie.

“One platform can carry whatever cargo module is required – van or ute, high or low roof – so it is constantly earning its keep, whatever each individual freight mission may be.”

The X1 Transformer will go into pre-production in November, with full testing to occur in April 2021, according to the company.

Premcar

The Warrior is a Nissan/Premcar production The Warrior is a Nissan/Premcar production

Traditional ute manufacturing might have ceased in Australia, but in its place has sprung a new industry, in which international vehicles are significantly modified for our market and our conditions.

Take Nissan Warrior program, in which the Navara is handed to Premcar's sizeable engineering team, where it is transformed into the Navara Warrior.

To get there, Premcar adds a winch-compatible, safari-style bulbar, a front bash plate and 3mm steel underbody protection.

There are new Cooper Discoverer All Terrain Tyre AT3 tyres, increased ground clearance and off-road-focused suspension that's been tuned in Australia.

“We’re really proud of what we’ve done on the Warrior program,” Premcar engineering director Bernie Quinn told us. “It’s important to note for us that Nissan actually trusts us with their brand. They hand that (Navara PRO-4X) over to us and they trust that we will deliver something that’s befitting of their brand.

Walkinshaw Group / GMSV

The Amarok W580 is a beast The Amarok W580 is a beast

The Walkinshaw Group have been on fire over the past few years, comprehensively reengineering a host of GM models for the Australian market (think Camaro and Silverado), partnering with RAM Trucks Australia for their 1500, and most recently forming the new GMSV from the ashes of Holden and HSV in our market.

But they're clearly not just American specialist, with the company also partnering with Volkswagen Australia to deliver the hardcore Amarok W580.

Upgraded suspension, stand-out styling, an increased ride height, and a custom exhaust system with dual rear-side-exit tailpipes, combine to form a ute that's tailored to Australia,

“Walkinshaw conducted a comprehensive retune of the Amarok’s standard suspension … in order to maximise grip and boost steering feel of the W580," VW says.

H2X Global

The H2X Warrego is a hydrogen-powered Ranger The H2X Warrego is a hydrogen-powered Ranger

This time last year, hydrogen vehicle firm H2X said it was finalising a fleet of rolling prototypes, and was on the hunt for manufacturing space for a range of fuel-cell vehicles including a ute, which the brand was confident would be built in Australia.

"It’s definitely Australia,” H2X boss Brendan Norman told us.

"Of course we could be slightly cheaper (off-shore), but at the same time, this country needs to be able to do things itself.

“We’re very good at things, we have some very clever people, and I’m backing the talent we have to make ourselves competitive.

“There are great people here. If Korea can do it, where there is a similar cost of living, there’s no reason we can’t, too.”

News has been a little quiet of late -- funding woes, apparently -- but this month we got to see what H2X has been working on, with the unveiling of the Ford Ranger-based Warrego, with the company using Ford's T6 platform to produce a vehicle very different to the workhorse we’ve grown accustomed to.

Gone is the diesel engine, and in its place lives a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain, in 66kW or 90kW guises, which power an electric motor that will produce up to 220kW. There’s also a 60kW to 100KW (trim dependent) super capacitor energy storage system, largely used to supply power when the vehicle is parked. Gone, too, is the Ford Ranger's traditional pricing structure, with the H2X Warrego starting a $189,000, and stretching to an eye-watering $250,000 for the top-spec model.

The vehicle will be revealed in full on the Gold Coast in November, ahead of a 2022 on-sale date. Where exactly conversions will take place is yet to be detailed.