A couple of years ago (or was it even longer?) I
wrote about the incestuous nature of the motor car industry. You
only have to think back a few years and remember the wonderful badge
engineering the British Leyland could do, where a Mini could be a
Morris, an Austin, a Riley or a Wolseley. My Down-under mate and
award winning motoring journalist, John Weinthal, has just sent me
up the script of one of his radio programmes. I enjoyed it so much,
that with his permission I have printed it here for your interest
too. So here are more Words from Weinthal.
“The theme for today’s chat first came to me
just over two years ago. I was driving the instant-classic Audi TT -
one of those rare cars that grabbed and held everybody’s attention
- and, for that matter, I believe the mere sight of one still sends
a thrill down most car lover’s spines.
“The usual questions arose - what’s it cost,
how fast, what sort of engine, is it front or rear-wheel-drive and
so on? But one question nobody thought to ask was where it was made.
It is an Audi - Audi is owned by the giant Volkswagen group; ergo it
is, like VW, made in Germany.
“However, it is not made in Germany at all -
the fabulous Audi TT is made in Hungary! To the best of my knowledge
it is the only Hungarian-made car sold in Australia. I would wager
some of the TT’s lucky owners do not even know that - Audi
certainly don’t make it their advertising headline!
“And so I looked around to see where else our
cars are made. Every Australian knows that Commodores and Falcons,
Camrys and Magnas are made right here in Australia. But by no means
all cars with Holden, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi badges are made
here - or in the countries which might seem most obvious. We’ll
return to them in a moment.
“How about the rest? Cars from Holland or
Finland - let’s rate them as unlikely. France, Spain and Belgium -
certainly; Austria, maybe. Brazil? Mexico? Thailand? - you’re
joking of course! How about South Africa? OK, the answer is clear,
because there’s no reason I would have mentioned these countries
“Did you know you can buy a British-made Nissan
Pulsar Hatch, but its sedan sister is as Japanese as you would
imagine. We get an odd mix of passenger vehicles from the USA. Ford
offers US-made Explorers and the lovely Cougar sports coupe. But,
those ultimate Good ‘ole Yankees - Ford’s new F-Series brutes -
are in fact not Yanks at all; they hail from Brazil in deepest South
“The recently demised Holden Suburban was
another archetypal Yank - maybe, but it arrived on a Mexican
Passport! Only three US-made Chryslers are sold here - the snappy
Chrysler Neon and the evergreen Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee. The
fabulous Chrysler PT Cruiser - perhaps the most versatile and
certainly the most eye-catching five-door hatch in the universe -
comes not from the States, but Austria, as does DaimlerChrysler’s
Jeep Grand Cherokee!
“Everybody knows VW’s New Beetle could only
be German. Sorry - make that Mexico, too. OK. Now please consider
the admirably Teutonic Mercedes C Class and 3 Series BMWs. I still
await the makers of these supreme status symbols boasting about
their South African birthplace, but both ship to us across the
Indian Ocean. (The BeeEmm 3 series are also made in Thailand.)
“Two recently arrived, and richly upmarket
four-wheel-drives, are the Mercedes M Class and BMW’s X5.
German-to-the-core; no argument! Well, only if Germany has quietly
become the 53rd State of the USA. And, whisper it, BMW’s zippy Z
convertibles and coupe are Yanks as well.
“See, you can’t trust ‘common knowledge’
for a moment. Almost every car I have named retains its apparent
country of origin image, regardless of where it is made. This alone
is quite a tribute to some of the less likely manufacturing
countries’ quality standards. There may be no better example than
the Holden Zafira - solid, imaginatively styled, extremely
versatile. So European you almost expect a blend of marmalade,
garlic and sauerkraut to assail your nostrils on entry. Make that
Thai green curry, and you would be right! Our very own Thai Holden!
“Holden’s Vectra Hatch comes from England but
its sedan sister is made in Germany. Astras are Belgian, Barinas and
Combos Spanish; Rodeo is made both in Thailand and Japan, and so it
goes on. We even have a US-made Holden in the shape of the
little-known Frontera four-wheel-drive. There are Toyota and
Mitsubishi light trucks from Thailand and Taiwan, as well as Japan.
“But, surely some cars’ birthplaces are too
obvious to matter - Volvo is Swedish, of course; provided it’s not
a 40 Series made in Holland. Everybody knows Saabs are Swedish. Of
course they do, and that Saab is owned by the same General Motors
which makes Holdens all over the map, and Saab convertibles in
“However, I will assert with some certainty,
that all cars bearing the badges Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, MG
and Rover are British to the core - even if BMW owns Rolls,
Volkswagen owns Bentley and Jag is part of the great Ford stable
along with Volvo and Aston Martin. That just about leaves us with
some Italian exotica - try Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati - as
being of true to their birthright.
“Last, but certainly not least, we have Lexus -
every Lexus comes proudly, and supremely well-made, from Toyota in
Japan. Toyota, please do not change that; knowing where our cars
hail from is adequately challenging as things stand.”