Automotive industry in Australia

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Monthly domestic sales of new motor vehicles
Monthly value of motor vehicle exports since 1988 ($millions)
Graph of large car sales 1991-

Australia is one of only a few countries with the capabilities to design cars from scratch and manufacture in significant volumes.[1] As of February 2014 Australian-designed cars are made by local producers Holden, a subsidiary of General Motors, and Ford Australia, while Toyota Australia manufactures local variants of its international models, particularly the Camry.

The first major Australian carmaker was the Ford Motor Company of Australia. The first Australian-designed mass production car was by Holden in 1948.

Australia is best known for the design and production of 'large' sized passenger vehicles. This category has suffered a steady and sustained downturn in Australian markets,[2] which has essentially resulted in the closure or forthcoming closure of all large-scale motor vehicle plants in the country. The Mitsubishi Motors Australia plant, previously Chrysler, in Adelaide was the first to close as a result of this downturn in February 2008.[3] It will be followed by the shutdown of the Ford Australia engine and vehicle plants in October 2016 and the Holden and Toyota Australia factories during 2017.[4][5][6]

Australian manufacture of cars rose to a maximum of almost half a million in the 1970s (10th place in the World) and still exceeded 400,000 in 2004.[7] By 2009 this had fallen to around 210,000: Australia's car market is now primarily composed of cars imported from Asia and Europe. Despite losing volume to changing customer preferences and economic reforms, the Australian automotive industry has a significant heritage and its cars continue to attract a devoted (albeit dwindling) base of customers.


The value of monthly vehicle imports ($millions) since 1988
Transportation and special purpose vehicles
Passenger vehicles

Australian constructors were very active at the very beginning of both car and aircraft development and in some areas, ahead of their overseas counterparts. Due to the isolation of Australia, it was more practical for Australia to make their own cars.[8]

The first true cars made in Australia were steam cars. The first of these steam cars, the Phaeton, was made in 1896 by Herbert Thomson and Edward Holmes of Armadale, Melbourne. It was exhibited in 1900 using the first pneumatic tyres made in Australia by Dunlop. The 5 horsepower single cylinder steam carriage which is now in the Institute of Applied Sciences, Melbourne, was reliable and durable enough to take Thomson and a friend 493 miles from Bathurst to Melbourne at an average speed of 8.7 mp/h.[9]

In 1901, Harley Tarrant produced the first Tarrant automobile, which was the first petrol-driven car built entirely in Australia in a small workshop in Melbourne. Before that, Tarrant had been using the shop to build engines. Tarrant was joined in this endeavour by bicycle maker, Howard Lewis. The car was powered by a rear-mounted 6 hp Benz engine. This car was followed by many improved designs, including the first fully enclosed car body made in Australia. Later models included locally produced components including: engines, gearboxes and rear axles.[8] The sole surviving Tarrant is on display at the RACV City Club, on the chancery level.

In 1903, the Australian Motoring Association was formed in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria to protect the interests of motorists. In 1924, this was followed by the Australian Automobile Association.[8]

Tyre manufacture also existed in Australia. However, the last tyre factory closed in April 2010 when Bridgestone ceased production.[10]

Historical production by year[edit]

YearProduction0       100       200       300       400       

Source:,[11] OICA

Large scale manufacturers[edit]


There are currently six large manufacturers with production lines in Australia;

Ford Australia[edit]

The Ford Territory, an Australian SUV
Main article: Ford Australia

Ford Australia is the Australian subsidiary of Ford Motor Company and was founded in Geelong, Victoria in 1925 as an outpost of Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited. At that time, Ford Canada was a separate company from Ford USA. Henry Ford had granted the manufacturing rights to Ford in British Empire (later Commonwealth) countries (excepting the UK) to Canadian investors. Ford Australia also has a performance car division, Ford Performance Vehicles, with the cars being marketed under the FPV brand. In May 2013 Ford announced that it will end Australian production in October 2016,[12] but will remain as a competitor in the Australian marketplace with imported vehicles.


2007–2008 Holden VE Commodore SV6
Main article: Holden

GM Holden Ltd is an Australian automaker based in Port Melbourne, Victoria. The company was founded in 1856 as a saddlery business, but later moved into the automotive field, becoming a subsidiary of General Motors (GM) in 1931. Holden has taken charge of vehicle operations for GM in Australasia and, on behalf of GM, holds partial ownership of GM Korea (formerly GM Daewoo) in South Korea. Over the years, Holden has offered a broad range of original, locally produced vehicles (such as the Holden Commodore), supplemented by imported GM models. In the past, Holden has offered badge engineered Chevrolet, Isuzu, Nissan, Suzuki, Toyota, and Vauxhall Motors models in sharing arrangements, with Daewoo, Opel, and Isuzu-sourced models sold currently. Holden also has a performance vehicle partner, Holden Special Vehicles, which markets modified Holdens under the HSV brand. In December 2013, Holden announced they would end their local manufacturing operations in Australia in 2017.[13]


Australian built pre-generation Iveco PowerStar assembled in Dandenong, Victoria

Iveco Australia is a subsidiary of CNH Industrial, it currently produces the Iveco PowerStar. It is known for being the only foreign semi truck maker that isn't producing an American branded Conventional semi truck.

Mack Trucks[edit]

Australian built Mack Titan

Mack Trucks Australia is a subsidiary of AB Volvo and manufacturers semi trucks for the Australian market. It is famous for manufacturing the popular Mack Titan.

Paccar Inc.[edit]

Kenworth T604

Kenworth Australia is a subsidiary of Paccar Inc., Kenworth Australia mainly manufactures semi trucks specifically for the Australian market, which includes the T4909SAR, C509, T359, T659, T909.


Toyota Aurion, built at the Altona plant

Toyota Motor Corporation Australia, or Toyota Australia, is a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation, which is based in Japan. TMCA first began in 1958, TMCA markets Toyota products and manages motorsport, advertising and business operations for Toyota Motor Corporation in Australia. TMCA is also responsible for Lexus vehicles in Australia.

On 10 February 2014, Toyota announced that by the end of 2017 they would cease manufacturing vehicles and engines in Australia.[14][15]


Australian Motor Industries[edit]

The Standard Vanguard was one of many models produced by AMI

Australian Motor Industries produced a range of Standard, Triumph, Rambler, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota automobiles in Australia between 1958 and 1987.

British Leyland[edit]

British Leyland's Australian subsidiary produced the Leyland P76 from 1973 to 1975

British Leyland previously assembled and manufactured vehicles in Australia.

Chrysler Australia[edit]

Chrysler Australia produced the Chrysler Valiant from 1962 to 1980
Main article: Chrysler Australia

Chrysler departed the Australian car market in 1981 when it sold the remainder of its shareholding in Chrysler Australia Ltd to the Mitsubishi Motor Corporation of Japan. The new owner renamed the company Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL) and this company continues to operate today as one of Australia's major importers of road vehicles. However, local production of passenger vehicles was discontinued in March 2008.[1] During the 1970s, Chrysler began working closely with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation after they acquired a 15 percent interest in the company in 1971, with the result that Chrysler Australia begin building Mitsubishi-designed Chrysler-branded vehicles such as the Chrysler Valiant Galant (1972–1977 Mitsubishi Galant) and the Chrysler Sigma (1977–1985 Mitsubishi Galant). The Tonsley Park plant was sold to Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and was run by Mitsubishi Motors Australia after Chrysler pulled out of Australian manufacturing in 1980. Production of the popular Sigma and Colt range of vehicles continued under the Mitsubishi name until the late-1980s, when production was switched exclusively to the Magna.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia[edit]

Mitsubishi Australia produced the Sigma from 1980 to 1987

Mitsubishi Motors Australia is a fully owned subsidiary of parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan. Its Australian administrative headquarters are located at Tonsley Park (Clovelly Park, South Australia), with branch offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The Tonsley Park site was the location of MMAL's vehicle assembly plant, closed in March 2008 when lacklustre sales of the large Mitsubishi 380 confirmed that domestic vehicle manufacture was no longer viable.

Nissan Australia[edit]

The Nissan Pintara was a product of Nissan Australia

Nissan Motors originally set up factories in Australia to build small 4-cylinder cars in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. Models produced in Australia included the Pulsar, Pintara, and Skyline. By the end of the 1980s however, Nissan was facing financial difficulties and eventually closed down its Australian factories in 1992, becoming strictly a vehicle importer afterwards.

Renault Australia[edit]

Renault (Australia) Pty Ltd was established in the late 1950s to organise the importation and contract assembly of Renault vehicles in Australia.[16] In August 1966 Renault Australia purchased the assembly facilities of Continental and Genertal Distributors at Heidelberg in Victoria.[16] Models including the Renault 10,[16] 12,[16] 16[17] and 18[18] were assembled and the company also entered into an agreement to assemble cars for Peugeot.[16] Australian production ended with the closure of the Heidelberg plant in July 1981 with LNC Industries then taking over importation and distribution of Renaults in Australia.[16] As of 2012, Renault vehicles are sold in Australia through Vehicle Distributors Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nissan Australia.[19]

Rootes Australia[edit]

The Humber Vogue was produced by Rootes Australia
Main article: Rootes Australia

Rootes Australia produced a range of Hillman, Humber, and Singer autombiles in Australia between 1946 and 1965. In December 1965, Rootes Australia was merged with Chrysler Australia.

Volkswagen Australia[edit]

The Volkswagen Country Buggy was a product of Volkswagen Australia

Volkswagen Australia Ltd was formed in 1957 by Volkswagen AG of Germany and various Australian state Volkswagen distributors.[20] The company acquired the vehicle assembly facilities of Martin & King at Clayton in Victoria, that site having been used for local assembly of the Volkswagen Beetle since 1954.[20] By 1960 sheet metal panels were being pressed at Clayton and by 1967 the engine and most components were being produced there.[20]

In 1967 Volkswagen Australia developed a unique model, the Country Buggy, which used components from the Beetle and the Kombi.[21]

Due to falling sales the operation reverted to assembly only in 1968.[20] A new company, Motor Producers Limited was formed and operations were expanded to include Datsun and Volvo models as well as Volkswagens.[20] The factory was sold to Nissan in 1976 and Australian assembly of Volkswagens ended shortly after.[20]

Small-scale producers[edit]

There are a number of current, previous or future small scale producers of cars in Australia, including;

Tuning companies[edit]

Current or previous tuning or customisation companies in Australia include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Federal Chamber of Commerce: "VFACTS monthly report" December 2008
  2. ^ "Australia's ailing car industry in desperate need of a saviour". Fairfax Media ( 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  3. ^ "Mitsubishi to close Australian factory". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  4. ^ "Toyota to close: Thousands of jobs to go as carmaker closes Australian plants by 2017". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  5. ^ "Holden to cease making cars in Australia in 2017". News Limited ( 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  6. ^ "Ford Australia to close Broadmeadows and Geelong plants, 1,200 jobs to go". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c "Technology in Australia 1788–1988". Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre. 2000. p. 479. Retrieved 2012-07-31.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  9. ^ "Technology in Australia 1788–1988". Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre. 2000. p. 478. Retrieved 2012-07-31.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "VFACTS Sales Reports". FCAI. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  12. ^ "Ford Australia to close Broadmeadows and Geelong plants, 1,200 jobs to go". ABC News (Australia). 23 May 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Holden to cease manufacturing in 2017". 11 December 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Mark Hawthorne (10 February 2014). "Toyota to exit Australia, 30,000 jobs could go". Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Dunckley, Mathew (10 February 2014). "Toyota confirms exit from Australian manufacturing in 2017". Port Macquarie News ( Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986, page 402
  17. ^ "Renault 16", Unique Cars, Issue 323, 13 Apr – 13 May 2011, page 116
  18. ^ Renault 18GTS., Retrieved on 23 November 2012
  19. ^ Renault and Australia,, Retrieved on 23 November 2012.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986, page 519
  21. ^ Tony Davis, Aussie Cars, 1987, page 99
  22. ^ Gratton, Ken (November 2008). "Blade Electron an electric Getz". Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  23. ^ "Carbontech". Carbontech. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  24. ^ "E-Vade Super Car". Web Wombat. 23 January 2008. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  25. ^ G.N. Georgano Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886–1930. (London: Grange-Universal, 1985).
  26. ^ Hassall, David (12 April 2012). "Tomcar – New local vehicle manufacturer". GoAuto. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 

Australian Car Brands, Companies and Manufacturers