Think of the Australian car industry and the first, second or even third thing that comes to mind probably won’t be about exports. However, both Ford and Holden have a history of successfully exporting their vehicles overseas.
The first Australian vehicle export to roll off the ship and onto the docks was to New Zealand in 1954 when Holden started exporting its mighty FJ. By 1956, they were exporting to Borneo, Malaysia and Thailand. By the time 1960 rolled around, they were also producing left hand drive cars, were exporting to almost 30 countries and had sold almost 11,000 units.
Exports for the company went from strength to strength. By 1970, Holden’s exports had earned the company a staggering $217 million since that first FJ hit the NZ docks 1954.
An interesting part of Holden’s export programme occurred from 1975 to 1977 when they began exporting HJ and HX Premiers, sans engine to Japan. Once there, the boys from Mazda went to work installing a 1.3 litre Wankel rotary engine, the only time GM ever produced a car that ended up with a rotary inside. It was then rebadged as the Mazda Roadpacer AP. Unfortunately, because it was underpowered, thirsty and expensive, it only sold 800 units.
Nevertheless, exports had become amazingly successful for Holden. A well-known line of exports included the Commodore, Monaro, Statesman and Caprice models. Commodores, rebadged as Chevrolet Luminas were sent to the Middle East, its largest export market, in 1998, with Statesmans sent the following year and rebadged as the Chevrolet Caprice.
2003 saw Holden’s iconic Monaro being sent overseas to the Middle East and then to the good old US of A, badged as the Pontiac GTO. GM UK, otherwise known as Vauxhall also sold the Monaro but kept it badged as the Monaro. The Commodore HSV version arrived in 2007, rebadged as the Vauxhall VXR8.
In 2011 the WM Caprice was sent to the USA as the Chevrolet Caprice PPV (Police Pursuit Vehicle), obviously for Police use only.
Holden announced it would start exporting the VF Commodore in 2014 and 2015 to the States, rebadging it as the Chevrolet SS. The VF Series II Commodore is continuing Holden’s proud export history to America with vehicles continuing to be sent throughout this year.
Ford also decided to get into the act by exporting to New Zealand, as well as PNG, Fiji and South Africa. The common denominator for these countries is that they are all right hand drive. Ford did play with the idea of expanding their export market to include left hand drive countries however this was consigned to the too hard basket in 2007 when the plug was pulled and the programme never got off the ground.
Ford’s exports included Falcons to New Zealand, XA and XB Fairmonts to the UK, along with the LTD. A small number of LPG Falcons were also sent to Hong Kong for use as taxis, although it proved to be expensive to run and so never really became popular.
With a few misses but mainly hits, the vehicle exports from both Ford and Holden have been tremendously successful, earning billions of dollars in the process. Remember, the ones mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re ever in South Korea and think you’ve just seen an LJ Torana, you’re not imagining things. That’s right, Holden even managed to send the beloved Torana there too!