Button car plan
|Original vehicle||Badge-engineered derivative|
|Ford Falcon (utility)||Nissan Ute|
|Holden Commodore||Toyota Lexcen|
|Nissan Pintara||Ford Corsair|
|Nissan Pulsar||Holden Astra|
|Toyota Camry||Holden Apollo|
|Toyota Corolla||Holden Nova|
|Nissan Patrol||Ford Maverick|
The Button car plan, also known as the Button plan was the informal name given to the Motor Industry Development Plan, an Australian federal (Labor) government initiative intended to rationalise the Australian motor vehicle industry and transition it to lower levels of protection. It took its name from Senator John Button, the then federal Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry.
Industry consultation began in mid-1983 and the scheme was announced in mid-1984. It came into effect in 1985, after Senator Button visited Japan to inform the car companies there of the content of the plan. At the time of the plan's inception, Australia's motor industry was heavily protected by import tariffs, and quotas or quantitative restrictions on imports. These measures were used to support local assembly of thirteen models by a range of manufacturers.
The Button car plan aimed to slash the number of locally manufactured models to six, by forcing industry consolidation——there were to be three groups each producing two models each by 1992. The overarching aim of the scheme was to make the motor vehicle industry in Australia more efficient through consolidation of resources, and so allowing the import tariffs to be gradually reduced. Theoretically this would expose the local industry to increased competition from imported products, fostering improvement in local vehicles and creating the basis for a competitive export industry.
The most obvious effect of the plan for the Australian car buyer was the appearance of badge-engineered vehicles, where the same basic vehicle was sold by several companies under different names. Other approaches included the Ford Courier and Mazda B-Series utilities utilising Mitsubishi's 2.6-litre Astron four-cylinder engine, and a proposal to replace Mitsubishi's locally built Colt with a rebadged Toyota Corolla. This proposal, however, never eventuated.
Holden initially teamed up with Nissan in 1984, where the Nissan Pulsar was sold as the Holden Astra. Later Pulsar and Astra models in Australia used Holden-sourced powertrains. This arrangement dissolved in 1989, and General Motors–Holden and Toyota formed United Australian Automobile Industries (UAAI). The vehicles produced as a result of this joint venture, the Holden Apollo (Toyota Camry), Holden Nova (Toyota Corolla) and Toyota Lexcen (Holden Commodore) lasted until 1996 for the Holden-badged derivatives models, and 1997 for Lexcen.
From 1988 to 1994, Ford Australia rebadged the Y60 Patrol as the Ford Maverick. The car was mechanically similar, although the Nissan version had rear disc brakes depending on vehicle grade, while the Ford mostly had drum brakes and featured different paint colours and trim levels.
This sharing of models proved unpopular with buyers, and also with manufacturers, each of which kept the best models in the relevant ranges for itself. Consequently, the original models outsold their badge-engineered counterparts; for example, the Toyota Corolla and Camry outsold the Holden Nova and Apollo seven to one. The last of such models, the Toyota Lexcen (Holden Commodore), was dropped in 1997. Rather than share locally assembled models with other manufacturers, Holden, Ford and Toyota decided to import fully built-up models from subsidiaries elsewhere in the world, mainly Europe and Japan. Mitsubishi Motors did not share models with other manufacturers during the period of the plan and ended Australian manufacturing in 2008; Nissan ended car manufacturing in Australia completely in 1994. Ford ceased Australian production in 2016, Holden and Toyota in 2017, leaving no Australian production of cars.
- Bowerman, Robin (27 August 1989). "What's in a badge? New car buyers may ask". The Age. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- Lake, Barry (26 May 2000). "Union ... and demarcation". Retrieved 10 March 2008.
- Earl, Peter (2002). Information, Opportunism and Economic Coordination. Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 1-84064-738-8.