The Long, Slow Death of the Australian Auto Industry
The news this week that General Motors will drop the Holden brand, ceasing production of the 164-year-old make by 2021, hit particularly hard. At a time when bushfires are threatening to destroy our wildlife and leading us to question many aspects of our national character, it seemed like an especially cruel blow to lose a brand that is so wrapped up in Australian identity.
Of course, this final chapter to the Holden story had been years in the making. Many people point to 2013, the year that then-treasurer Joe Hockey challenged Holden to “come clean” about its manufacturing plans in a speech in Federal Parliament.
Days later, Holden announced it would cease Australian manufacturing, and in 2017 the last car built in Australia rolled off the production line.
The Times has reported on the long slow death of the Australian automotive industry over the years, with a story in 2017 when the last Holden factory closed, and also in 2014 when it had become clear that our auto industry was a thing of the past. In that article, John Mellor wrote, “For Australians, all that’s left is to sit and wait for the inevitable end of a venerable, distinctive and once-vibrant industry.”
There are myriad ramifications to the Holden news, beyond the obvious loss of jobs (the company still employs hundreds of workers in Australia and New Zealand).
Each of Australia’s major political parties are busy blaming the other, with neither offering much in the way of hope nor positive solutions. And if you happen to have an old Holden sitting in your garage, it just became a whole lot more valuable: According to a news release from Lloyd’s Auctions, a dealer of antique cars (among other things), the value of vintage Holdens as much as doubled in the 24-hour period following GM’s announcement.
So much of the outpouring of sadness over the loss of Holden is wrapped up in nostalgia — nostalgia for a time when manufacturing was booming and Australian summers were long and lazy and beach-oriented, not as Damien Cave wrote in this week’s news analysis, “When summer is feared. When air filters hum in homes that are bunkers, with kids kept indoors. When birdsong and the rustle of marsupials in the bush give way to an eerie, smoky silence.”
Damien’s analysis touched on something else: that Australians are hungry for a way forward, one that tackles the realities of a changing economy and climate.
If we had leaders that gave us hope for that positive way forward, many Australians say, perhaps these losses wouldn’t feel quite so hopeless.
Do you have a particularly Australian memory of Holden? Tell us at email@example.com.
Here are our stories for the week:
Australia and New Zealand
The End of Australia as We Know It: What many of us have witnessed this fire season feels alive and monstrous. With climate change forcing a stumble toward new ways of work, leisure and life, will politics follow?
Australian Police Treating Car Fire That Killed 3 Children as Crime Scene: Residents in Brisbane reportedly tried to extinguish the fire, which also killed one man and hospitalized a woman, who later died, who were in the vehicle.
They Wanted Research Funding, So They Entered the Lottery: A survey of New Zealand scientists found that recipients of a randomized funding program favored random allocations of some kinds of grant money.
What’s Better Than One Family Home in New Zealand? Three of Them: Julian Robertson loves visiting New Zealand’s North Island. To make room for his three sons and their children, he is building them their own homes.
Around the Times
How a Pharmacy Handles Mask Hoarders and Coronavirus Fears: At a small pharmacy in Hong Kong, part of the job has become calming nervous customers desperate for supplies.
2020 Democratic Debate: Highlights From Nevada: Everything you need to know as six Democratic presidential candidates prepare to face off in Las Vegas three days before the Nevada caucuses.
China Expels 3 Wall Street Journal Reporters as Media Relations Sour: Beijing said it had revoked their credentials over a headline the newspaper published in its opinion pages.
Hundreds Released From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan: Coronavirus quarantine over, passengers ventured off into the port city of Yokohama and beyond amid deep concerns among health experts and the announcement of two deaths.
And Over To You …
Last week we asked you what other Australian words and qualities you find difficult to describe to non-Australians. Here’s one reader’s suggestions (some more uncouth ones removed.)
“Sheila. Bloke. Mate. Maaaaate (as in I forgot your name). Yeah-no. NA! (Very short and preceded with a nasally ‘n’ sound. Thongs (so foreign that my bloody Apple changed it to “things.”)
This’ll keep you flat out like a lizard drinking. I’m off like a bucket of prawns in the sun.”
— Mike Young
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