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I have started reviewing all Australian Wheels magazines since the very first issue published in May 1953, thanks to the support of the New South Wales State Library in Sydney where I live, so over the next weeks and months you will be updated of my progress integrating historical sales data for Australia…
After an exceptional year in 1950 at +68% on 1949 to 205,269 registrations, the Australian car market slows down over the next 3 years, at -4% in 1951, -19% in 1952 and -3% in 1953 to 158,603 units. In November 1948, “Australia’s own car” is born, the first car manufactured in Australia for Australians. It is originally a Chevrolet project deemed too small for the American market, marketed only as the “Holden”. Immediate success followed, creating waiting lists way into 1949 and 1950.
The Holden FJ followed in October 1953 with similar success: 169,969 units were produced in 4 years. It achieved iconic status in the country and remains one of Australia’s most recognisable automotive symbols. The FE (1956-1958), FC (1958-1960) and FB (1960-1961) Series also topped Australian sales over the period, with 155,161, 191,724 and 154,811 units produced respectively.
At this stage I only have access to brands ranking. In 1952 and 1953 Holden leads with 23,621 and 33,611 sales respectively, ahead of Ford both years. Morris is #3 in 1952 but drops 38% to #4 in 1953, passed by Austin. Notice Vauxhall in 7th position. Peugeot, winner of the first legendary Redex reliability trial in 1953, increases sales by 80% in ’53.
In the August 1958 brands ranking we witness the irresistible growth of Volkswagen up to a fantastic 3rd place behind only Holden and Ford. Holden has significantly increased its market share at 5,258 sales during that month vs. 1,903 for Ford, only kept afloat by the Zephyr. Chrysler is now worryingly out of the Top 10.
The period also saw the appearance of controversial ‘safety belts’ in cars… Surely a fad that wouldn’t last…
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More vintage pictures, Full Year 1953 and August 1958 brands Ranking Tables below.
Australia total market 1949-1953:
Australia Full Year 1953 – Brands:
Australia August 1958 – Brands:
Source: Wheels magazine, 1953-1959.