Holden, Ford, Toyota car sales not as bad as they seem

12 January 2012
, CarsGuide
Holden, Ford, Toyota car sales not as bad as they seem
Holden says it is committed to local manufacturing for the long haul

Holden lost the top spot its Commodore held for 15 years, Toyota's Camry still leads its class but is nearly 6000 sales behind 2010, and the numbers for the Ford Falcon are . . . well, dismal.

Imported small cars are biting deeper and deeper into the homegrown heartland and no-one is better on a serious future for the Falcon and Commodore beyond 2018 - at the latest.

But drill a bit deeper and the news is not necessarily as bad as it looks.

Yes, Falcon only managed to find 18,741 new friends last year and that number is impossible to sustain. For a start, there will be no money for future development.

But Falcon sedan numbers now have to be combined with the Territory SUV - which is really a new-age replacement for the Falcon wagon - and Falcon utes.

When you combine the three, production from Broadmeadows rises to 39,411. That's still not brilliant, but it's not a disaster.

And remember Ford was without its crucial LPG model for much of the year, and has is about to introduce its EcoBoost four-cylinder Falcon to win government and fleet sales.

"We're putting our money where our mouth is, and investing in the future of this product. I see that the glass is half full. I'm positive," the new sales and marketing director of Ford Australia, Brad Brownell, tells Carsguide.

Across at Holden, the story is the same but different.Commodore numbers are down but GM Holden has already hedged its bets by diversifying into production of the compact Cruze in Adelaide.

So its local production needs to combine the two - even though there is distortion with some Cruze imports - to get a true number.

Doing that, as well as adding the ute, and Caprice numbers, Holden's total goes from 40,617 for Commodore sedan up to something beyond 85,000.

Holden says it is committed to local manufacturing for the long haul and that looks true, with the Cruze set to eventually overtake Commodore as its local showroom headliner.

And Toyota? Well, its factory at Altona is geared for 50 per cent export and the Middle East slide has been far worse than Australia through the global financial downturn.

Through 2011 the Camry and Aurion were also into runout ahead of an all-new model. So the 2011 result of 28,084 cars will jump considerably through 2012 with full production of Camry, V6 Aurion and Camry hybrid, as well as increased exports.

Would Toyota be spending $350 million on a new engine factory in Melbourne if it was not committed to local production? No, exactly.

Things are still tough, and both Ford and Holden are fighting hard to justify any future investments to their head offices in Detroit, but  Federal Industry Minister Kim Carr says he is bullish and is in Motown this week for meetings with company chiefs during the Detroit motor show.

So there is lots of uncertainty, and Ford is definitely leaning away from a unique Ford Falcon, but it's a long time yet until the fat lady sings.