Australia’s car industry is dying. As the gradual removal of tariffs kicked off by Prime Minister Hawke began to bite, and in more recent times fiscal prudence forcing Governments to question financial support, the car industry was at a cross-roads. And by the end of 2017 our once great car manufacturing sub-sector will be in Australian history’s rear-vision mirror. Toyota, Holden and Ford, all gone.
In short: neoliberalism and the laissez-faire hasn’t been kind to Australia’s car industry.
I was one of those people who questioned Government’s insistence on supporting an industry that was for all intents and purposes, uneconomic. And economic theory – nay economic sense – backs that assertion. Australia’s high wage costs, lack of economies of scale, cost of inputs and decline of sales of domestically-built vehicles all contributed to an industry that in aggregate couldn’t compete with cheap imports. So policymakers and industry cut their losses and pulled out of Australia. Rightly or wrongly Australia will no longer a car-producing nation.
Forza Horizon 3 and its Australian setting is a celebration of an industry – but more important a culture – that is a ghost of its former self. I’ve written before about how intertwined car culture is in Australia’s psyche and I’m convinced a lot of that is to do with just how unique it is. Yell “Brockie” from the footpath anywhere in Australia, much less my hometown of Adelaide, and it’ll undoubtedly be acknowledged with “yeah mate!” or “Legend!” from passersby. And flash a photo of his GTR-XU1 and it might induce convulsions.
But, like a lot of things in this great southern land, these things are all pretty much unknown to the rest of the world. The moment you step into the 2016 HSV Maloo GTS to ‘upgrading’ to a Holden Torana A9X it becomes clear that Horizon 3 pays homage, not just to our country’s natural beauty, but its unique automotive scene too. A scene that – with the last Ford Falcon already rolling off the line in Geelong and the last Australian built Commodore due in 2017 – is at risk of disappearing altogether. And taking everything built around it, with it.
And its for this very reason I’m lamenting the loss of our automotive industry. Because while it may not be economic, cultural output seldom is. And Forza Horizon 3 makes it very clear that, above all else, our car culture is something we should value and cherish as uniquely Australia
Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests – or bonnets in this case – but don’t want to make a federal issue out of it. But feel free to play armchair economist, neoliberal critic or rip-roaring union commie in the comments section. Or, y’know, just pay your respect to the Australian car industry, R.I.P.