Wheeling in the years series - Holden and Ford still top of the pops in the 1970s

In the 1970s Abba were top of the charts, the kids were glued to the new colour TVs watching Countdown every weekend and Holden was telling us that “we love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars” in one of the most annoying advertising jingles of the decade.

It was largely true, however, with Aussies remaining loyal to General Motors until 1977 when the Ford Falcon finally knocked Holden’s Kingswood/Premier combination off the top of the perch.

The battle between Holden and Ford for sales supremacy in Australia kicked off in the 1960s with Holden the clear market leader, but throughout the 70s Ford closed the gap with its Falcon, Cortina, Escort and Capri models.

Holden’s shrinking sales share

At the start of the decade Holden’s market share had shrunk to just over a third, with Ford holding down 22.3 per cent and Chrysler a distant third, with 9.6 per cent.

But while Holden and Ford slugged it out at the top of the market, perhaps the real story of motoring in the 70s was our growing love affair with Japanese brands. By 1968 no less than 12 Japanese brands had established a foothold in Australia and by the end of 1971 nearly one in five new cars were Japanese.

Toyota and Datsun slug it out

In the early part of the decade the sales race between Datsun (now Nissan) and Toyota mirrored the Holden-Ford battle. The early leader was Toyota, with its Corona, Corolla and Celica models which was overtaken in 1973 by Datsun’s 1200, 1600 and 180B models.

Australians really took to small Japanese cars with their winning combination of features, build quality and price, though the Japanese didn’t have it all their own way. In 1977 Holden’s Torana/Sunbird models was still out-selling Datsun’s 180B/200B.

Disappearing Europeans

In the face of the Holden-Ford battle and the Japanese entry into the market, European brands hardly got a look in. Leyland and Volkswagen sales headed inexorably south throughout the 70s.

Leyland’s hopes of taking on Holden’s Kingswood, Ford’s Falcon and the Chrysler Valiant in the big car segment lay with the P76, which it launched with considerable fanfare in 1973. A huge boot that could hold a 44-gallon drum and the Wheels Car of the Year Award were major selling points, but production problems, abysmal quality control and unreliability had Australians avoiding it in droves. Leyland’s lemon remains one of Australian motoring’s most heroic failures.

In contrast to the Leyland P76, the 1970 Wheels Car of the Year - Renault’s R12 - was a well-built, reliable, thoroughly civilised small car that Australians also largely ignored, with Renault/Peugeot holding just 1.7 per cent of the market in 1972.

Commodore an instant hit

The Ford Falcon stole a march on Holden’s Kingswood in 1977, pipping it at the sales post, but Holden weren’t about to take it lying down. They hit back in November 1978 with the launch of the Commodore – an instant success which took back top spot from the Falcon the following year.

The Commodore set the scene for Holden as it entered the 80s primed and ready for battle with its great Ford rival, the Falcon, but that Japanese juggernaut just kept rolling on.

Year in focus, 1970 – Australia Full Year Brands:

 
Brand
1970
%
1
Holden
139,834
33.9%
2
Ford
92,040
22.3%
3
Chrysler
39,597
9.6%
4
Toyota
26,171
6.39%
5
Datsun
19,989
4.8%
6
Morris
17,128
4.1%
7
Mazda
13,143
3.2%
8
Volkswagen
13,117
3.2%
9
Hillman
12,009
2.9%
10
Austin
11,311
2.7%

Year in focus, 1971 – Australia Full Year Brands:

 
Brand
1971
%
1
Holden
168,169
33.4%
2
Ford
112,281
22.3%
3
Japanese
91,637
18.2%
4
Chrysler
57,399
11.4%
5
British Leyland
33,735
6.7%
 
Others
40,280
8.0%

Year in focus, 1972 – Australia Full Year Brands:

 
Brand
1972
%
1
Holden
129,873
32.0%
2
Ford
111,609
27.5%
3
Chrysler
40,179
9.9%
4
Datsun
29,627
7.3%
5
Toyota
28,410
7.0%
6
Leyland
22,728
5.6%
7
Mazda
12,581
3.1%
8
Volkswagen
10,552
2.6%
9
Renault/Peugeot
6,899
1.7%
10
Volvo
2,841
0.7%
11
Honda
2,029
0.5%
12
Mercedes
1,623
0.4%
 
Others
6,899
1.7%

Year in focus, 1973 – Australia Full Year Models:

 
Brand
1973
1
Holden
94,419
2
Ford Falcon
62,352
3
Datsun 1200, 1600, 180-B
36,723
4
Holden Torana
36,366
5
Toyota Corolla, Corona, Celica
34,650
6
Ford Cortica, Escort, Capri
31,828
7
Chrysler Valiant
31,721
8
Holden commercials
31,302
9
Mazda
25,005
10
Ford Falcon commercials
13,426

Source: Wheels Magazine

Year in focus, 1977 – Australia Full Year Models:

 
Model
1977
1
Ford Falcon
54,506
2
Holden Kingswood/Premier
53,934
3
Holden Torana/Sunbird
30,442
4
Datsun 180B/200B
28,094
5
Toyota Corona/Celica
27,262

Year in focus, 1977– Australia (Sep – Dec) Models:

 
Model
Dec-77
Dec
Nov-77
Nov
Oct-77
Oct
Sep
1
Holden Kingswood/Premier
5,396
1
4,621
1
3,791
2
2
2
Ford Falcon
3,972
2
4,337
2
3,846
1
1
3
Datsun 180B
3,041
3
3,190
3
3,131
3
4
4
Holden Torana
2,709
4
2,040
8
1,200
9
7
5
Ford Cortina
2,613
5
2,411
4
2,221
4
3
6
Toyota Corona/Celica
2,473
6
2,137
6
2,178
6
5
7
Holden Gemini
2,158
7
2,137
5
1,351
8
8
8
Chrysler Galant/Sigma
1,701
8
2,081
7
2,201
5
13
9
Toyota Corolla
1,491
9
1,370
9
1,754
7
6
10
Mazda 323/828
1,039
10
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
Datsun 120Y
n/a
n/a
984
10
1,100
10
9
 
1
Model
Holden Kingswood/Premier
Dec-77
5,396
Dec
1
Nov-77
4,621
Nov
1
Oct-77
3,791
Oct
2
Sep
2
 
2
Model
Ford Falcon
Dec-77
3,972
Dec
2
Nov-77
4,337
Nov
2
Oct-77
3,846
Oct
1
Sep
1
 
3
Model
Datsun 180B
Dec-77
3,041
Dec
3
Nov-77
3,190
Nov
3
Oct-77
3,131
Oct
3
Sep
4
 
4
Model
Holden Torana
Dec-77
2,709
Dec
4
Nov-77
2,040
Nov
8
Oct-77
1,200
Oct
9
Sep
7
 
5
Model
Ford Cortina
Dec-77
2,613
Dec
5
Nov-77
2,411
Nov
4
Oct-77
2,221
Oct
4
Sep
3
 
6
Model
Toyota Corona/Celica
Dec-77
2,473
Dec
6
Nov-77
2,137
Nov
6
Oct-77
2,178
Oct
6
Sep
5
 
7
Model
Holden Gemini
Dec-77
2,158
Dec
7
Nov-77
2,137
Nov
5
Oct-77
1,351
Oct
8
Sep
8
 
8
Model
Chrysler Galant/Sigma
Dec-77
1,701
Dec
8
Nov-77
2,081
Nov
7
Oct-77
2,201
Oct
5
Sep
13
 
9
Model
Toyota Corolla
Dec-77
1,491
Dec
9
Nov-77
1,370
Nov
9
Oct-77
1,754
Oct
7
Sep
6
 
10
Model
Mazda 323/828
Dec-77
1,039
Dec
10
Nov-77
n/a
Nov
n/a
Oct-77
n/a
Oct
n/a
Sep
n/a
 
n/a
Model
Datsun 120Y
Dec-77
n/a
Dec
n/a
Nov-77
984
Nov
10
Oct-77
1,100
Oct
10
Sep
9

Check out our other blogs in the series, Wheeling in the years series - Australia's own car was a hit from the start.

Source of tables: Modern Motor

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