While Australia isn’t the first country that comes to mind when most automotive enthusiasts talk about vital, car-producing nations, Wards Auto reports that the nation’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is quite proud of its ability to turn out top-quality automobiles. At the recent “Cars of Tomorrow” conference in Melbourne, FCAI CEO Ian Chalmers called on continued innovation from the nation’s auto-producing industry.
New designs down under
Chalmers is excited about what the Australian auto industry is producing, and will continue to produce.
“It continues to excite us with new designs, new models and new features,” he said. “It does this while making cars safer, more environmentally responsible, and – most importantly – more affordable.
“Economic purists may call our industry archaic, past our use-by-date. The term ‘rust bucket’ seems to flow easily from the tips of their often poisonous pens. But this characterization could not be further from the truth.”
A strong domestic industry
A strong network of domestic parts suppliers and the three largest domestic automakers – GM Holden, Ford and Toyota – are helping transform Australia’s economic landscape. Chalmers views this as essential to the continued prosperity of the nation for years to come.
“The auto industry does this by developing and sustaining local expertise, honing technology and driving innovation,” he said. It is one of the largest employers of industrial designers and the largest customer of the tooling industry.
According to Chalmers, the industry boasts a total of more than 60 brands and 1 million-plus annual domestic sales. More than 50,000 Australians are employed in the auto industry domestically, and many more work in related support industries. These jobs funnel billions of dollars in tax revenue and wages into the national economy, an indication that the industry provides far more than it takes from the national coffers, noted Chalmers.
The Australian auto industry must depend upon exports for the bulk of its sales, but vehicles aren’t the only thing that the nation sends across the ocean.
“We’re increasingly in the business of exporting not just cars, but knowledge, expertise, ideas, designs and engineering solutions,” said Chalmers. “The investments being made by the car companies to satisfy evolving customer expectations are helping to create jobs and enhance the automotive industry’s strategic capability.”
Despite free-trade agreements, entry into foreign markets is filled with competition, as tariffs and other financial barriers exist that slow the flow of exports. Australia itself is a very open market, notes Wards Auto. Its own tariff rate is only 3.5 percent, down from more than 30 percent during the 1990s.