Australian sales of locally produced vehicles fell a record 15 % last year as Ford and General Motors Holden unit announced plans to cease production in the country amid surging imports.
According to data released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the two U.S. automakers and Toyota sold just 118, 510 locally-produced cars in 2013, which compares to 139,796 the previous year and 201,623 in 2006.
“We’re probably the most expensive manufacturing country in the world today,” said Tony Lemmo, chief executive officer of Autoteam Australia Consulting. “Everybody is re-sourcing to lower-cost countries.”
Australia’s century-old automotive industry, which includes about 150 suppliers that employ an estimated 42,000 people, is bracing for extinction as the strong local currency and lower tariffs drive out manufacturers. Sales of Australian-made cars have tumbled 41 % since 2006.
“GM Holden’s planned closure in 2017 will put our manufacturing operations and the local supplier network under unprecedented pressure,” Max Yasuda, head of Toyota’s Australian operations, said in a statement last month. “It is now more important than ever before that we make urgent changes.”
Toyota, which accounted for 19 % of vehicles sold in the country, is now seeking to change aspects of its employment contracts with plant workers on grounds that the operations are uncompetitive compared with other factories worldwide.