The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) says the nation’s automotive industry urgently needs accurate data to guide government policy and to help businesses plan growth strategies for the future.
The AAAA wants a comprehensive national audit of automotive component manufacturers and covering all types of vehicles, including buses, motorcycles, trucks, trains, trams and special purpose vehicles for agricultural and mining applications.
AAAA Senior Manager of Government Relations Lesley Yates said the data must include both auto OE and aftermarket parts manufacturing, auto product research and development, original equipment and aftermarket exports and imports, auto workshop tools and equipment manufacturing, fuels and lubricants, vehicle importers and sales outlets.
“Presently, Australia has a range of data collection systems operating in isolation. This fractured process delivers data that is difficult to correlate across industry sectors. At worst, we have data that is designed to support various groups’ individual interests.
“Rather than having a single objective set of data, we have many separate, disjointed perspectives from which to view the industry.
“For example, from an outside view, the industry’s current situation looks pretty dire. Car makers are closing, jobs will be lost, suppliers will close and more jobs will be lost. It sounds a bleak story, but how bad is it really?
“Every politician wants to know ‘how large will the job losses be and will they be in my electorate?’ The truth is we don’t have the correct data to confidently, accurately answer these questions.
“The external view matters because policy and decision makers outside our industry – including politicians – have influence over its destiny. When people hear the job loss story, they take the news at face value. They don’t ask ‘how reliable is the data?’
“With our current poor information collection system, we capture data that can tell the wrong story. That means Governments, investors and key institutions can make poor decisions,” said Lesley Yates.
Good Data Facilitates Good Strategies
Much of the public conversation about the death of the automotive industry relates to the closure of the car manufacturers – Ford, Holden and Toyota. The lack of accurate job loss data on the closure of these factories and their suppliers has inhibited development of new business strategies and support systems for the impacted sectors.
Lesley Yates said a key misconception is that not all vehicle manufacturing is closing. PACCAR, Volvo and Iveco will continue to make trucks. Bombardier, Tomcar and Thales will continue to make specialist road and all-terrain vehicles, trains and trams.
“Employment statistics are a key example of the need for robust industry data. Who knew until recently that more people are employed in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing in Queensland (7,550) than in South Australia (5,300)?” asked Lesley Yates.
“And the story of Queensland is interesting, because there is only one OEM supplier in Queensland. So who are all of these employers?
“They are small to medium enterprises making high value products. They may have started with race car parts and have made their way – through innovation and design value adds – into recreational, 4WD, mining, military and special purpose vehicles.
“To identify all of our skills and value, we must expand the definition of ‘automotive industry’. We need a cross industry collaborative approach to create an open and robust overview of all sectors of this diverse industry.
“The AAAA does not see a bleak future for the automotive industry. We see a strong future for businesses that innovate, develop new products, diversify their markets, and those relying on OEM customers for less than 70% of current turnover.
“We cannot assume that every auto producer is at risk – you have to ask them. You have to do an assessment of production volumes and who the customers are. To date, only the South Australian Government has invested in a true mapping exercise of where the industry adds value in that State.
“To devise strategies to ensure the future of all automotive manufacturing in Australia we need a fresh collaborative and national approach to data collection and analysis,” said Lesley Yates