As the pyrotechnicians worked overtime to ensure the smooth firing of colourful explosives for New Year’s, the curtain came down on another plethora of models from the Australian new car market.
Like every year, some models were farewelled with a tear in the eye and a tip of the hat, destined to be the subject of barroom debates for years to come.
Others were not so lucky. “Huh, was that still for sale?” is a more likely response - and that’s assuming they ever pop up in conversation in 2017 or beyond.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and some models merely experienced change rather than extinction.
Variants, engine options and body-styles may have come and gone as carmakers look to make the most of a model’s potential (Peugeot’s 308 is the most recent example here). Manual gearboxes are tragically fading faster than a 1990s red paint job, and SUVs continue to squeeze passenger cars off dealer forecourts.
We kicked things off with Kia in our look back at 2015, so that’s reason enough to do the same again for 2016.
KIA SPORTS CARS
Despite enthusiasts far and wide calling on Kia to bring a ‘proper’ sports model to Australia, both the pro_cee’d GT and the Koup struggled from the get-go.
The pro_cee’d’s manual-only approach was blamed for its demise, but as plenty of hot hatches have shown - even in a market as downright lazy as Australia’s - sticking with the stick-shift sometimes serves to weed out the casual observers who were never likely to become customers anyway.
The Koup in turbocharged form offered the same engine as the pro_cee’d in a similar body-style for less money and with a much more forgiving suspension tune - plus a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.
So if the pro_cee’d was the victim of its manual-only approach, the Koup Automatic should have sold up a storm, right..?
When the pro_cee’d departed, the Koup’s combined sales could not even match the pro_cee’d at a time when Kia saw best to cut the pro_cee’d from the range. The writing was already on the wall, and even with Kia’s sports car market to itself, the Koup was axed in April.
One can only hope that Kia’s mooted rear-wheel-drive, midsized sports sedan not only arrives in Australia, but that it finds its way into driveways as well. If it’s half-decent, well-priced and it doesn’t sell, Kia Australia can certainly be forgiven for ignoring all future calls for another ‘proper sports car’.
RETIREMENT HOME MODELS
In the earliest days of 2016, the Land Rover Defender finally hung up its mud terrain tyres.
While the icon will surely be replaced at some stage by Jaguar Land Rover, fans will always have a place in their hearts for the original. And the idea that the leftover tooling could be sold to a manufacturer in a country where safety rules are less strict may see the Defender continue for many years yet.
But for now, the original Defender is enjoying more comfortable shoes in retirement.
Likewise - the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
The ‘Evo’ really didn’t do any ‘wrong’, but all good things must come to an end and Mitsubishi’s long-term future plans include no Lancer of any description at this stage. The carmaker’s recent acquisition by the Renault Nissan Alliance could see the badge revived via a model-sharing project, but it’s unlikely to strike the same chord as the original.
The Lancer Evo Final Edition went on sale in Australia at the end of 2015, and only a few of the 150 examples would have lasted into 2016 before the Evo was done.
Another final edition model - or Legend Edition in this case - came from Nissan last month.
The Y61 Patrol has been in the ‘hanging on’ stage for a while, but new emissions laws for Australia which came to be in November have forced the Y61 and others into retirement.
Fans of the capable off-roader will need to be quick, as just 300 Y61 Legends, are on the cards - all reserved for Australia.
Seems the novelty wore off in 2016 for Volkswagen’s Beetle, with the revived people’s car (or ‘New Beetle’) given its marching orders with a special edition to see it off in style.
Volkswagen also cut its Golf Cabriolet from the local line-up in 2016, and the Scirocco R is in runout with the limited edition Wolfsburg model to see it on its way.
The final, um, final edition in 2016 came from Citroen.
The French carmaker’s famed and popular hydro-pneumatic suspension waved goodbye in the C5 Final Edition, with just 62 examples (one for each year of hydro-pneumatic suspension’s existence) available.
Citroen’s C5 Final Edition also spelled the end for the current-generation C5 in the Australian market.
OUT THE BACK DOOR
Did you notice Great Wall’s SUV range quietly escaping the building?
Just nine sales were recorded in 2016, but an exit was always scheduled for the two models as a much more comprehensive SUV program launched for the company in Australia in 2016 under the Haval banner.
And the Great Wall name is alive and kicking in Australia, with the V240 and V200 models relaunched as the Steed in September.
Honda had chalked up 719 sales for its midsized Accord in 2016, but very few of them were for the Accord Hybrid.
The model was cut after just nine months on the local market.
One of the last to exit the scene in 2016, slipping quietly into retirement, was the Suzuki Kizashi.
The Japanese carmaker shifted almost all of the remaining stock last month, and no replacement is due for the midsized sedan.
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
Nissan’s Micra was temporarily benched while the carmaker’s local HQ awaits the arrival of the all-new model.
Micra stocks are still available in Australia, although 144 sales in November slipped to just 14 last month, suggesting few remain.
The Nissan Pulsar Hatch is also in runout as the Pulsar is headed for sedan-only status in Australia once hatch stocks are gone. That may take some time, as all hatch models including the SSS are still available for now.
Holden will likely dissolve its midsized passenger segment when the fully-imported (and smaller) Holden Commodore arrives in 2018, with the new model set to effectively replace both the locally-built Commodore and the Malibu.
Another on the fully-imported list for Holden now is the small Cruze, with the final locally-built examples flowing from the production line at Elizabeth in October.
Hyundai’s popular i20 managed just 123 sales last year, but that’s only because the equally-popular Accent has taken its place in the local line-up.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Toyota Australia is simply running out of time with its FJ Cruiser off-roader.
While Australian customers loved the retro 4WD, although many called for a diesel engine option, the exhaustion of customers in the more-prominent US and Japanese markets meant the FJ’s run simply had to end. And end it did, with production ceasing in August.
But the FJ is still available in Australia, for now, so act with haste if you want one of the last examples.
Certainly not HSV’s most-popular model, nonetheless the luxury Grange long-wheelbase sedan was the first of what will be many casualties for the performance brand through 2016/17.
The Grange got its own limited edition model in May to see it off, but while most of the available examples have been sold, a handful is still available.
Staying with Holden, despite 12 months to run until the carmaker departs the local scene as a manufacturer, the last V6 petrol engine made its way down the production line in Melbourne late last year - more on Holden in a moment.
Dodge is also gone from Australia, for now.
The carmaker’s sole model, the Journey SUV, is now in runout, and Dodge has confirmed it will not be replaced.
Parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has left the door open for Dodge’s return one day, although no concrete plans are in place.
The last drinks for 2016, we raise our glasses to the Ford Falcon.
We won’t forget the Falcon Ute, or the Territory SUV, but all are ably represented by the Falcon sedan and wagon which are now a warm memory in the history of Australian road transport.
In the midst of the Falcon’s swansong, the final six- and eight-cylinder engines used to power the aforementioned models slipped by almost unnoticed, but Ford was saving the champaign and streamers for its final Falcons in the weeks that followed.
Ford used what resources it could to give the Falcon a proper send off, with the limited edition XR6 and XR8 Sprints. Also, the last examples in the model’s history were auctioned for charity, and the last-ever for the trio wear no compliance plates so they can never be properly registered - destined instead for life in a museum.
THE YEAR AHEAD
We won’t be analysing sales figures and determining odds for the survival of certain models currently out of favour with the public (feel free to post a comment with your predictions), but here’s a few models that may not be around to toot Auld Lang Syne when 2018 arrives.
The Jeep showroom isn’t big enough for the pair, and the new Compass is destined to replace both its predecessor and the Patriot as a single model in Australia.
Proton’s local future is a guarded secret. The carmaker was rumoured to be cutting the Preve from its local line-up in 2016, leaving it with just the Exora people-mover and the Suprima S for Australia.
All three survived the year, although just three examples (one Suprima S and two Preves) were sold in November. That figure rose to 14 sales in December (one Exora, five Preve, eight Suprima S), but overall sales are down 56 percent on 2015.
Proton has made no formal announcement on the Preve's future in Australia at this stage.
Toyota’s planned exit from the Australian manufacturing scene will occur toward the end of the year, when the Camry will switch to fully-imported status.
But will the identically-sized Aurion with V6 power be around in 2018? Will the Aurion be retired, and if so, will it be replaced? Will Toyota revert to offering a V6-powered Camry as part of the range like it has in the past? Time will tell.
As we saved the final word for Ford last year, it’s only fair that we do the same for Holden in 2017.
It’s no secret that GM will cease to build cars in Australia this year, possibly in early November.
We’ve already previewed the next-generation, fully-imported Commodore for 2018. And whereas Ford retired the Falcon name in October last year, Holden will keep the Commodore name alive on the new model.
The countdown to the local Commodore’s demise has already begun, with Holden reaching out to its fans and inviting them to register for one of three special edition Commodore (and Utility) models. More info on the trio is expected any day now.
HSV is also known to be planning something special for its Commodore swansong, with a special edition model that threatens to break records for power, performance and potentially price for a locally-built car.
To think that Holden might struggle to shift limited edition models in 2017 is, quite frankly, laughable, so a vast series of final edition Commodore models is not out of the question for Holden as the year rolls on.
Competition will be fierce for all of the final edition models as buyers look to secure one (or more), and fans may have to roll the dice if Holden stops short of announcing which of the special editions is the ‘final final’ edition.
An Australia without at least one carmaker building a mass-produced model is yet to become a reality, but it’s closer than we care to admit. The Commodore alone has been, and remains, a regular in the top-ten best-seller list since the launch of the VF, averaging more than 2000 units a month.
Holden readily admits it has a fight on its hands to keep buyers onside, for the Commodore at the very least, once the Elizabeth factory closes.
What will the motoring landscape look like throughout 2017 and into 2018? Watch this space.