One interesting development in the past 10 years has a new, albeit small, wave of parts makers finding their own way in the world. Companies such as Carbon Revolution (wheels), Quickstep Technologies (lightweight panels) and Tritium (fast chargers for electric vehicles) are carving out niches in technological areas.
In addition, there will be an array of well-established parts companies that were never part of the official government car plans. These include ARB Corporation, Harrop Engineering, Cyco Group, Albins Performance Transmissions and PWR Performance Products, all of which are producing world-ranked products focused on niche markets in off-road and high-performance parts.
It’s not clear how many of these companies, old and new, will be able to flourish in an industry when there are no car makers providing the stimulus for design, quality and efficiency.
But what is clear is that they will never replace the 40,000 full-time jobs and 60,000 full-time-equivalent jobs that will be lost when then last car factories close.
Here’s how some of these companies will be moving forward so that Australia can still claim to be an important player in the world motoring industry.
MtM: When you open a car door, there is a mechanism between the two hinges called a door check that prevents the door swinging all the way around and hitting the bodywork. MtM Automotive Components has excelled in making this specialised product for most of its 48 years. The company started exporting these in the 1990s, including to Cadillac in the US which it still supplies. It will lose about 25 per cent of its business when Holden and Toyota stop local operations in October but it has secured new orders in China to fill that gap and more. Crucially, while the final assembly will be done in China, the key component that contains MtM’s intellectual property will still be made in Oakleigh South in Melbourne, protecting the company’s expertise and competitive edge.
Unidrive: A leader in the manufacture and supply of drive shafts and propeller shafts to Australian car makers, Unidrive will lose around half of its business and half its 110-strong workforce when Holden and Toyota shut down.
However, over the past 20 years, Clayton-based Unidrive has developed specialised skills in order to service its major export contract, the supply of driveline support assemblies – where the driveshaft is enclosed in a torque tube – for Chevrolet’s high-profile Corvette sports car.
Its production of 35,000 to 40,000 units annually are too small for the global parts suppliers but just the sort of volume in which Australian suppliers specialise.
Bosch Australia: Bosch came to Australia in 1955 with Volkswagen, but stayed on after VW left and became a crucial supplier of braking systems to the local industry.
Production of braking systems has since moved offshore due to dwindling volumes here but, like Ford and Holden, Bosch has retained its world-class design and engineering centre in Melbourne.
Australia is also Bosch’s global centre for the production of power diodes, a key component in vehicle alternators, and for trailer safety, developing systems that help control caravans, boat trailers and the like. Their product variants for the Corvette include full aluminium and combinations of aluminium and steel and aluminium and composite materials, all relatively high-value components that are still viable when exported.