Button Plan – The start of the Demise of the Australian Automotive Industry


The demise of the Australian car industry is often blamed on the Button Plan of 1985. David Brown gives us some perspective of what it was and what it tried to do.

The Australian car market has many different makes and models, more than are for sale in the US.

But for locals to succeed you need economies of scale.

A government could squeeze foreign competitors with higher tariffs, help companies find export markets and/or reduce the number of cars models.

High tariffs hurt customers and diminish export potential.  So they reduced tariffs.  They encouraged model sharing – you could, for example, buy a Commodore badged as a Toyota Lexcen.

It is often forgotten that reducing the range of local models helps local component makers get economies of scale. We were way behind in that area.

The Button plan did try to address the specific problems of the car industry but could not manage to create the economies of scale needed.

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About David Brown 409 Articles
David’s boyhood passion for motor cars did not immediately lead to a professional role in the motor industry. A qualified Civil Engineer he specialised in traffic engineering and transport planning. What followed were various positions including being seconded to a government think-tank for the planning of transport firstly in Sydney and then for the whole of NSW. After working with the NRMA and as a consultant he moved to being an independent writer and commentator on the broader areas of transport and the more specific areas of the cars we drive. His half hour motoring program “Overdrive” has been described as an “informed, humorous and irreverent look at motoring and transport from Australia and overseas”. It is heard on 22 stations across Australia. He does weekly interviews with several ABC radio stations and is also heard on commercial radio in Sydney. David has written for metropolitan and regional newspapers and has presented regular segments on metropolitan and regional television stations. David is also a contributor for AnyAuto