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Autoliv crash test centre saved

Smashing result: Autoliv's crash test centre has found a new owner in parts-maker APV.

Aussie parts company APV steps in to buy Autoliv’s crash test facility in Victoria

20 May 2011

ONE of only two independent automotive crash test centres in Australia has been saved by local car parts and accessories manufacturer Australian Performance Vehicles (APV) in a $10 million investment.

The Autoliv Crash Test Facility – put on the market by multinational airbag and seatbelt company Autoliv when it wound back its Australian operations recently – will not only continue to provide crash test and safety engineering services to the motor industry and other sectors, such as aero suppliers, but also help APV develop new products for the aftermarket.

The sale of the facility in Campbellfield, near Ford Australia’s assembly plant on Melbourne’s northern fringe, saves the jobs of 12 engineers and technicians and has created at least three more staff positions.

APV, based in nearby Coburg but with another production facility in Queensland, also takes over Autoliv’s aftermarket division, Klippan Safety Products, saving a further 50 jobs of workers in a company that develops and makes safety gear such as aftermarket seat belts – for bus and forklift manufacturers, for example – and safety harnesses for other industries.

The only other independent vehicle crash testing facility is Sydney’s Crashlab, which does the bulk of Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) tests, among others.

Autoliv Australia, which employed more than 1000 people across its various manufacturing and engineering divisions at its peak about six years ago, moved its original equipment seatbelt manufacturing operation offshore to Thailand late last year and then scaled back its local engineering operation, leaving a staff of only about 12 to liaise with local car manufacturers.

80 center imageThe crash test centre is best known for conducting side-impact crash tests for the ANCAP while also providing crash services to Ford Australia for its local vehicle development programs, including for vehicles such as the Ranger ute. As well, it has also crash-tested the Australian-made Bushmaster military vehicle, and even tests light-plane seats.

Autoliv Australia’s general manager of engineering and marketing, Andrew Baldacchino, has been recruited by APV to head up the former Autoliv crash test facility, renamed APV Engineering and Testing Services.

APV managing director Harry Hickling told GoAuto that the marriage of the two operations would provide synergies to allow the joint company to grow its business in both Australia and export markets.

He said the combined operation had a turnover of about $45 million a year, covering sales to the three Australian motor manufacturers with items such as fuel fillers and suspension parts, aftermarket accessories such as bullbars and trade vehicle fitouts, as well as the safety engineering business.

Mr Hickling said the new-look APV had been restructured into four divisions – APV Automotive Components, APV Safety Products, APV Engineering and Testing Services and APV Vehicle Solutions.

He said the product development side of APV would be consolidated with the safety engineering division.

“The personnel of both APV and Autoliv are genuinely excited with the prospect of strengthening the company and APV’s Melbourne-based activities being based at Campbellfield,” he said.

“For both organisations, there is a real sense of optimism amongst the staff as they can see a strong future in a combined business.”

Mr Hickling said APV would develop a shared corporate services organisation with upgraded IT systems and infrastructure.

He said one of the main focuses of Klippan under APV would be to drive greater business in exports, especially the United States.

“About a third of its revenue is already generated in the US, the UK and Europe, and we are going to put in a lot of effort in the next 12 months to grow the US market place,” he said.

“We have access to the Autoliv seatbelt technology and products, so we have a competitive advantage in the market place.

“We also have some IP agreements with some other suppliers which gives us some unique capability with industrial seatbelts.”

Mr Hickling said the safety engineering division would not only take over the task of testing APV’s own products – previously done in-house at APV- but would also look to expand further into other industrial testing.

“The test centre is basically going to become the centre of our product development and well as providing a range of industrial testing services to industry, from environmental testing, salt spray testing, destructive testing, calibration services etc,” he said.

“So we are centralising all our engineering within the test lab, and the test centre is going to become a much broader supplier of those services across industry.

“It actually has quite a good diversified base already, and that is what we intend to grow.”

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