What the Pandemic Has Shown About the Importance of Car Manufacturing

Posted by: Lydia on 11/01/2021

Category: General

Empty and disused factory space 

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought massive changes to every aspect of our daily lives. In addition to the universal goal of eradicating the virus so that we can get back to living more normal lives, there are a number of conversations happening about the implications of the pandemic beyond the healthcare field. 

Included in this dialogue are discussions about Australia’s manufacturing capabilities, as the pandemic has brought about new challenges in terms of the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — among other goods. It has also revealed a lot about Australia's prior abilities in car manufacturing, and can perhaps offer some insight into what Oz should do in future. Let's take a more in-depth look at what the pandemic has shown about the importance of car manufacturing.

Local Resources Help Fight a Pandemic

The pandemic has brought global trade and business to an effective standstill in many areas. A look at any international departures lounge of any Aussie airport will show a very underwhelming scene. 

It’s true that there have been some silver linings to the pandemic, such as more Aussies falling in love with their country all over again as they do some domestic tourism. But ultimately, Covid-19 has severely impacted how countries normally trade and do business in an international and open marketplace — and this has important implications for regular Aussies going about their lives Down Under.

The Loss of Local Knowledge

Sad as it may be, any gearhead would likely recognise that the Aussie car industry has undergone some tough times over the last few years. The Holden brand, for example, experienced diminishing sales in its final years. But as unfortunate as it was, the ‘end of an era’ came just as the dawn of a new one with electric and self-driving cars was coming about. 

This is a crucial consideration because as a highly-advanced economy, Australia is well-placed to provide workers for this new era of cars who have technical and manufacturing expertise — but the problem is the absence of a local industry.

In previous decades, such expertise could be used to build a career in the auto industry of the Great Southern Land. In decades to come, it may be possible to do so once more. But right now, the absence of a local industry has seen a number of former Aussie auto experts head overseas to continue their careers, which has in turn decreased our capacity to manufacture goods with the speed and precision of automaking nations. 

With the outbreak of the pandemic, this fact is particularly frustrating — in times of national crisis, manufacturing plants across the nation would commonly shift from producing their regular goods to making the products that were the most urgently needed to keep the country moving along.

In other words, if Australia still had the engineering expertise and factory space to really ramp up production of PPE and similar goods that help combat this pandemic, it would mean more lives saved and less harm caused by the virus. 

This reality, in addition to the economic turbulence caused by the pandemic, is why many Aussies now want to see proactive efforts by public officials and industry leaders to revive a much bigger presence of local manufacturing.

Another Pandemic Could Happen

Although pandemics on the scale we're experiencing now have not occurred very frequently throughout history, they do happen, and they will likely happen more frequently in the future.

Some people may feel that we need to grit our teeth, get through this challenging period until the vaccine is distributed, and then Australia and the world will basically go back to normal. The desire to move on from a tough 2020 is completely understandable, but that reality is that even if Covid-19 is eradicated by the end of 2021, it will leave a long-lasting impact.

Not only will we see this in the health and economic fallout — with the virus estimatedly costing the country more than $800 billion over the next decade — but also in how we plan for the future. We can only hope that the expertise and techniques that we’ve used in this pandemic would allow us to contain and overcome it faster next time, but there are no guarantees. 

That’s why Aussies who call for a return to local manufacturing offer a valid argument when pointing out that the benefits of doing so would not only mean new local jobs and locally-made cars, but also many other benefits to our national capability.

Roaring the Engine Again

Nobody in the last days of local car production could have imagined the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, many are now imagining a different approach to how Australia builds its national capabilities heading into the 2020s. 

For many years, manufacturing was a real backbone of the local economy, and cars were always a special part of that given how many generations of Aussies drove a locally-made Ford or Holden with pride. Australia can’t go back to the past, but what the pandemic has shown is how important having a car industry can be to a country’s future. 

The pandemic has been challenging  for countries all across the world, but those who maintain a car industry have had an advantage in being able to produce PPE more quickly and efficiently. A return to local car manufacturing in Australia won’t happen overnight, but there’s now further evidence for why it should indeed happen one day. That’s something all Australians who are keen on putting this pandemic in the rear-view mirror can get excited about. 

What else do you think the pandemic has taught us about the importance of car manufacturing? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: Pixabay