The 2017 Ford GT

Aussie Car Industry Shifting Gear To Become Design Hub

CAR manufacturing might be on its last legs in Australia but innovative vehicle design continues to kick goals at home with Victoria leading the way.

This year’s Detroit Auto Show unveiled new Fords and Holdens hatched from designs drawn at Campbellfield and Port Melbourne.

The eye-catching Ford GT, the practical Chevrolet Bolt EV and the shapely Buick Avenir all grew from ideas born in Melbourne’s suburbs, proving there’s plenty of life left in the local automotive industry.

The designs won plaudits from judges and onlookers alike, with the Ford muscle sports car winning the “Eyes On Design Award” for best production vehicle and the Buick claiming the USA Today “most beautiful car” badge.

Buick Avenir
Beautiful design. The Aussie-designed Buick Avenir made waves at the Detroit Auto Show. Darren Brode /

This is positive news for an industry that has been shaken by years of bad press and gloomy forecasts leading up to last year’s decision by Ford, Holden and Toyota to cease all Australian production by 2017.

But Monash University claims the signs are strong that Melbourne could become a hub for car design studios that match any around the world.

“Design graduates from Monash University have been taken all over the globe to major design studios, but what is gratifying is just how many car designers stay in Australia, or are coming back from overseas appointments to be engaged in studios in Australia. These designers offer a broader set of skills and advancing automotive design talent,” says Selby Coxon, who is acting head of design at Monash University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (MADA).

“To be in this position is testament to the stewardship of the studios through difficult times, and the high quality industry ready education at MADA that enabled educators to have the right alignment with employers in industry.

“The Australian design studios indicate that they are adept at designing with constraint, not over detailing their vehicles with bells and whistles but taking a subtle and inventive approach. They integrate the technological sophistication required of today’s cars with elegance in both form and usability.”

Chevrolet Bolt EV
No Emissions: The Chevrolet Bolt EV, designed in Melbourne. Ed Aldridge /

In February, highlighted Australia’s proud history of innovative car design and engineering – from the world’s first steam-powered horseless carriage through to the futuristic 1969 Holden Hurricane Coupe.

Many have been on display at the National Gallery of Victoria show Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car from March 6.

Visitors get their last chance to see some of the breakthroughs of the past, while joining activities and discussions on what the future holds for the local car design industry at this show, which concludes on July 12.