Could EVs be the key to revitalising Australian car manufacturing?
Posted by: Lydia on 29/09/2020
The past decade saw the painful end of local car manufacturing in Australia. It was a demise that saddened everyone from keen petrolheads to casual car fans, to Aussies who just generally liked the idea of the Great Southern Land building fantastic vehicles. Ultimately, the local car industry was in decline for many years, so any dreams of a resurrection now certainly won’t come true.
But this doesn't necessarily mean that we could never, ever see an Aussie car-making comeback. The future of car manufacturing as we know it is rapidly evolving once more. So within this new era, is there actually the potential for Aussie car-making to make a big comeback — and do so with electric vehicles (EV)?
Can We Call It a ‘Comeback’?
When discussing the return of the Aussie car industry, it’s important to recognise that some would say that the Aussie car industry never quite left. It’s generally fair to say that if cars are not being made and assembled here, then we can’t really claim to have a conventional car-making industry. Yet, Holden’s car design team has kept working for a number of years locally even after the factory fell silent.
It’s also important to remember there is a substantial network of supporting services that certainly form part of a broader automobile and transport industry. The installation of electric charging stations around the nation to cater to existing EVs is a key example of this, and so is your trusty mechanic.
But ultimately, we can all agree that the return of a local manufacturing presence would represent a clear and substantial upgrade on the current activity, and bring us closer to a ‘normal’ industry that we knew in the past.
It Won't Change Overnight
If the Aussie car industry did make a big comeback, it’s clear that EVs could form a very important part of that. After all, many nations around the world are actively working towards an eventual phase-out of the traditional petrol-powered engine.
This includes passing laws that will not only phase them out, but ban the manufacturing of traditional engines altogether. The gap this creates is certain to provide a big boost to the EV car industry, locally and globally.
It’s also clear that Australia has a number of features that make it very attractive for the emergence of a new EV market. The abundance of sunshine across the country ensures that there will be ongoing growth of solar panel installations, including in residential homes where drivers can charge their EV once they arrive home each day.
We’re also a nation whose population lives mostly in major cities, meaning that some of the current range limitations of EVs won't be an issue for many, especially considering that the network of charging stations will continue to increase in years ahead, including in remote areas.
Getting Everyone Along for the Ride
In order for Australia to see a local car industry emerge once more, it’s important to recognise that success couldn’t be left to the industry alone. After all, one of the difficult realities surrounding why the car industry left when it did was a decline in demand for locally-made Fords, Holdens, and Toyotas among local buyers.
Of course, car lovers should choose the car they love most when it comes time to get a new ride, but this also means that any local car revival would likely be highly dependent on a local demand to help ensure its ongoing success. Even if Australia does have many elements that make it ideal for growing an EV manufacturing base, if local buyers won’t get in line to buy Aussie-made cars, it will be an uphill battle to sustain profitability.
It would also be essential for other stakeholders in the industry and public authorities to coordinate better. While asking Aussies to ‘buy Australian’ is certainly much easier when it comes to buying a packet of biscuits or a bottle of cordial, it's undeniable that a number of these campaigns have raised public awareness substantially. And with an industry that is old and troubled — or young and growing — a truly national policy may be extremely beneficial.
If the Aussie car industry was to return and saw a bigger and more targeted campaign supporting it, it would be fair to have real optimism that the next chapter of the Aussie car industry could grow and sustain in a way that it couldn’t in the final years of the previous era.
Proven Knowledge and Future Potential
The reality is that the Australian car industry of the future is highly unlikely to resemble one of the past. Of course, we'll never know what the future holds. However, even if conditions here become more attractive for local car production, the same will likely be true in many other nations as technologies advance, transport time decreases, and newcomers enter the market.
That said, Australia’s car industry came to an end largely as a result of changes in demand and wider market factors — and not because there was a lack of talent or ability to build great machines. We therefore still hold the tools to build a local car industry again, even if it's a leaner and meaner version of the bygone era.
For those who dream of seeing Aussie car production return, it may be a real possibility. And best of all, as the electric era is just beginning, a return of Aussie car-making could last for many decades to come.
What are your thoughts on the future of EVs and the Aussie car industry? Let us know in the comments!