When Ford and Holden (and Toyota and Mitsubishi, for that matter) finally packed up shop in Australia, it was widely assumed that the local car manufacturing industry would remain dead forever.
But a new talent-packed Australian car company hopes to change that, with news late last week that H2X Australia would manufacture a hydrogen-powered SUV, called the Snowy, in NSW, which could be on Australian streets as early as 2022.
And now we have a full picture set of the Snowy, and we have to say, we like what we see. A futuristic, premium-looking front end blends into a vaguely Volvo-inspired side profile, while the white roof adds yet another visual element.
And the design should be good really, given in H2X's talent pool swims Chris Reitz, a former Alfa Romeo Design Director. He's joined bye other industry heavyweights, like Alan Marder (formerly a Toyota executive), Peter Zienau (formerly of Saab and Chevrolet), Ian Thompson (formerly of Tesla) and Kevin McCann (formerly of Hyundai Australia and Volvo). The company is led by former VW and BMW executive Brendan Norman.
The Snowy isn't Australia's first homegrown SUV, of course. Plenty consider the Ford Territory one of the best locally built cars of all time. It began life in 2004, seemingly ahead of the curve when it came to a shift towards SUVs, and the Falcon-based Territory stayed with us for more than decade.
The Snowy, too, hopes to be ahead of its time, with the brand conceding that broader hydrogen infrastructure will need to be in place for a proper launch rollout of the SUV, which is a mid-size SUV equipped with a 60kW fuel cell and overall power outputs of 190kW.
The company will base its production facility at Port Kembla near Wollongong, south of Sydney, and focus on hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. That will include heavy vehicles, but the consumer halo will be the Snowy.
H2X Australia, which currently employs 70 people, says it's also finalising plans for two unspecified heavy vehicles, thought to be trucks focused on interstate routes, with power outputs of up to 550kW, and says it could be producing as many as 25,000 vehicles a year by 2025.
“We have two distinct platforms in final stages of development and will be releasing details shortly," Mr Norman told the Australian Manufacturing Forum.
“We will be showing running prototypes of the first model in November, beta versions will be available for trailing by customers in April and we want to be producing in volume in July next year.”