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SAE-A calls for car industry to be rebuilt

Be smart: SAE-A chairman Adrian Feeney believes that with the right government initiatives, the Australian auto industry can be rebuilt and better placed to help with crises such as the current pandemic.

Peak auto engineering body sees COVID-19 crisis as opportunity to rebuild car sector

20 Apr 2020

THE Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A) has described the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity for the local car manufacturing sector to be rebuilt in order to better respond to such a crisis – and to take advantage of emerging industry trends.


Representing more than 2000 automotive engineers, SAE-A chairman and CEO Adrian Feeney said Australia has the skills and underutilised facilities that could be used to revive the car manufacturing industry, building advanced vehicles for global consumption and turning to specialist medical equipment in times of crisis.


“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,” he 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.”


Ford Australia is far from the only local operation doing its bit in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.


As GoAuto has reported, a large number of component suppliers, engineering firms, speciality manufacturers, racing teams, industry bodies and a variety of other individuals and organisations connected to the automotive sector are actively involved in assisting in the production of much-needed personal protective equipment.


However, Mr Feeney said this week that far more could be done if the federal government threw its weight behind the industry.


“It could all be so different if the government invested in reviving our car industry, starting with engineers, and ultimately full-scale specialist manufacturing,” he said.


“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.


“It’s a big opportunity, with new players and technologies emerging all the time.”


Mr Feeney referenced the resourcefulness of other manufacturers like Tesla Motors, which set up shop and went into full production in a former GM-Toyota factory in California.


He also said Australia could be the home of a “resurgent, world-class local car industry”.


“We have former Toyota and GM plants, too, and Ford for good measure,” he said.


“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.


“Let us not sit back and let countries like Mexico and India put us in the shade – let’s be the smart country again and develop a new and exciting car and build it for the world.


“And then next time we face a challenge that calls for world-class engineering and manufacturing capabilities, whether a virus or anything else, we will be ready and able to meet that challenge.”

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