The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated one of the unforeseen effects of robbing Australia of a local car manufacturing industry, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A).
SAE-A Chairman and CEO Adrian Feeney said the pandemic had shown how valuable local car production can be by providing engineering expertise and facilities to locally produce necessary equipment for health workers to fight the virus.
A ventilator built by the Triple 8 Supercar team.
"Car manufacturers around the world are making masks, ventilators and other equipment, not just in America and Europe, but in countries like India and Mexico," Feeney said.
"Not so in Australia, where we see Ford Australia developing a surgical face shield, but having to do it in a Parts Distribution Centre, not a car factory.
"It could all be so different if the government invested in reviving our car industry, starting with engineers, and ultimately full-scale specialist manufacturing."
Time is running out
Feeney claims it’s not too late to rebuild the local industry, with vital automotive assets still in place that could easily be preserved if the government moved as decisively as it had to protect other industries from the pandemic.
"We have that capacity right now – engineers, proving grounds, factories and other facilities – that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild if lost," he said.
Should the Morrison Government follow former Prime Minster Ben Chifley's lead by re-investing in Australia's car industry for the national interest?
"It's a big opportunity, with new players and technologies emerging all the time.
"Let's not forget that Tesla got into full production by taking over a former GM-Toyota factory in California – well, we have former Toyota and GM plants too, and Ford for good measure.
"Tomorrow's car could be almost anything – autonomous, electric, all sorts of things – and Australian engineers are renowned for the flexible thinking these new technologies require."
Mr Feeney said the right initiative by Australia's governments over the next two years could attract corporate investment in a resurgent, world-class local car industry.
"Which Australian Prime Minister wants to be known as the Ben Chifley of the 21st century?"
"Next time we face a challenge that calls for world-class engineering and manufacturing capabilities, whether (it be) a virus or anything else, we will be ready and able to meet that challenge."
Does Adrian Feeney have a point, or is he drawing a long-bow out of self-interest? Tell is what you think in the comments section below.