With the recent announcements that Ford, Holden and Toyota will cease to manufacture cars in Australia from 2017, this will mean that Australia will need to import all passenger cars from then on. This is not a new phenomenon. Up to the mid 1920’s, there was no large scale car manufacture in Australia. The only exceptions were stillborn attempts like the Australian Six.
Here is an interesting list from a February 1925 edition of the Australian “Motor Life” magazine, showing which makes of passenger cars were imported into Australia, and which companies imported them.
The first thing to notice is the number of makes, along with the range of countries from which these cars originated. Back then many countries had well-established car manufacturing industries, with many different makes. In 2014, very few of the makes on the 1925 list are still manufacturing cars – Bentley, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Citroen, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Lancia, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall are the only survivors. CASE still manufacture agricultural machinery, having stopped car production in 1927. The list also shows how motoring in Australia in the mid 1920’s was concentrated in the two most populated states – New South Wales and Victoria. The island state Tasmania is not listed at all – I presume that there were dealerships in Tasmania, but they were not worth mentioning by the “mainland” motoring press!
Many of the dealers in Sydney and Melbourne did not concentrate on one make, instead importing a wide range of vehicles, eg AV Turner was the dealer for Benz, Diatto, Itala, while Boyd Edkins was the dealer for Humber, Mercer, Oldsmobile and Vauxhall. The Rugby listed was the car built by Durant as the Star. As there was an English manufacturer called Star importing cars into Australia, the name was changed to Rugby to avoid confusion. I have no idea if the name change lead to increased sales in Queensland and New South Wales, where Rugby League and Rugby Union were the two most popular winter football codes. The Stanley Steamer was the last gasp for steam-powered passenger cars. By the early 1920’s, the internal combustion engine was a fully reliable power source, so the advantages held by steam early in the 20th century had dissipated. 1924 was the last year of production for a full range of cars, with production dwindling until finally stopping in 1927.