In Australia, it looks like the trend towards fuel-efficient cars will have as its victim the venerable Holden Commodore. The Commodore has been the best-selling car in the Australian continent for the past 15 years. Up to five years ago, the Commodore, together with the Ford Falcon, were consistently first and second in the sales charts. However, a combination of factors such as ever-increasing fuel prices and changes in buyer preferences have seen these once dominant models being ignored by people who choose to buy a Japanese car. Compared to the small fours in compact cars or turbocharged diesels in popular SUVs, the standard six cylinder engines in the Commodore and Falcon are now deemed too thirsty for the times. Because of the realization that fuel prices will only keep increasing in the future, Australians have turned to more fuel-efficient cars, so much so that small cars now represent seven out of Australia's 10 best-selling models. But fuel prices do not tell the whole story, as even the recent introduction of an LPG-powered Ford Falcon failed to increase sales significantly. It seems that a new generation of buyers do not want to be identified with designs that are decades old and prefer the fresher designs, as demonstrated by people who buy a Japanese car.
If one looks at the vehicle sales figures for Australia in November 2011, the top 10 are broken down into 5 compact cars such as the Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Hyndai i30 and Holden Cruze. The only full size car is the Commodore. The rest of the top is made up of crossovers and pickups, or utes, as the Aussies call them. Tellingly, the vehicle in the number 3 spot for November is the Toyota Hilux, a pickup. This demonstrates an increasing sales trend, where Australians are choosing to buy a dual-cab ute that can do duty as a work vehicle on weekdays and as a recreational family car for the weekends. The popularity of these vehicles is such that there have been months in 2011 where the Toyota Hilux was the top-selling vehicle in Australia. Recognizing this trend, even Volkswagen has entered the segment with an Argentine-built pickup called the Amarok.
For the local car manufacturing industry, such trends affect the viability of their operations. Since the Commodore and the Falcon represented their core product, the downward sales trends can only mean reduced output and possible job losses. However, new products such as the Ford Territory have shown that local manufacturing operations can still remain viable. If the affected companies can come up with cars that offer the same features and efficiency that attract people to buy a Japanese car, then the local car production industry still has a fighting chance.