Automotive manufacturing means trucks, too

TIC welcomes any reflection upon the automotive industry noting in this case the review will also consider the important role played by the retail sector. However a common misconception is that the “Automotive Industry” consists of the three passenger car manufacturers and their component suppliers. TIC’s support for the review is conditioned upon the review being genuine from the outset in its definition of the automotive sector. The Senate review needs to embrace all sectors of the automotive space not just the car sector as has been the experience to date when similar inquiries have been conducted, for example, the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s Automotive Manufacturing Industry (2014) and the 2008 Bracks review of the sector.

Automotive means not only car, but truck too.  

In terms of truck manufacturing, Australia has a great story to tell.

Back in 1983, Senator John Button (Button Car Plan) told the Australian truck manufacturers to stand on their own two feet as there would be no industry transition plan for them like that experienced by the car industry over the last three decades.   

The result: Australia in 2015 still has three truck manufacturers. These manufactures, Volvo Mack in Brisbane and Paccar (Kenworth) and Iveco in Melbourne have survived and prospered without Federal Government assistance. They are great examples of how product can be manufactured here in Australia. Their success is based upon being in tune with the needs of their customers. Trucks built in Australia are tailor made for customers whose needs are unique and vary based upon the task they want their truck to perform.

Approximately 50 per cent of the heavy trucks, some 6,000 units, sold in Australia every year are manufactured at these three plants. These trucks can be 26 metre B-doubles operating on the nation’s highways with a gross combination mass approaching 70 tonnes, road trains operating in remote areas with a gross vehicle mass up to 150 tonnes or specialist vehicles such as in mining applications operating up to a staggering 300 tonnes.

Local manufacturers design and build these trucks here in Australia. In short, the labour, local design input and high number of locally produced components ensures that the local content by value of trucks manufactured in Australia is on par or higher than that achieved by Australian passenger car producers.
But that is not where this success story for Australia ends.

Truck manufacture consists of a second stage in addition to the basic building of a cab chassis.

The second manufacturer fits the truck with the equipment required by the operator. On a rigid truck, this could be a specialist body such as a tipper/dump unit, liquid tanker, curtain-sider, concrete mixer or refrigerated van. If the truck is to be used as an articulated vehicle pulling one or more trailers, it will be fitted with towing equipment including a turntable, rear wheel guards, electrical and air connections. Whether a rigid or articulated truck, the vehicle is not suitable for on-road use in the vast majority of cases until the second stage of manufacture is completed.

This secondary manufacturing process applies to over 95 per cent of trucks sold in Australia, upwards of 29,000 vehicles each year, even if the basic vehicle has been imported. As such, there are hundreds of second-stage manufacturing companies, from major trailer manufacturers, tipper and tanker builders to the smaller companies making everything from specialist bodies to hydraulics for tippers and garbage collectors.

What a positive outcome for an industry told to stand on its own two feet back in the 1980s.

The take home message for members of the Senate Committee is that car manufacturing may be on its last legs in Australia but truck manufacturing is alive and well, employing Australians who are developing and utilising their unique skill sets whilst designing and building world leading trucks for Australia. The lessons learnt from truck manufacturers can help Senators in their deliberations on the future of the automotive sector in Australia.

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