President's address - FCAI Annual Dinner

6th May, 2015

Senator Carr, Minister D’Ambrosio, Government representatives, Industry CEO’s, FCAI life members, ladies and gentleman, please allow me to add my welcome to tonight’s Annual Dinner.

I’m sure that there is not a person in this room who doesn’t understand that the Australian Automotive and Motorcycle industry is a vital and integral part of Australia’s economy.

As we transition from domestic manufacturing, to an import only industry, it is important that governments, media, and the general public alike, understand the contribution that the industry currently makes, and will continue to make in the future.

We must ensure that our voice continues to have resonance and that the depth and breadth of the industry is thoroughly understood.

The FCAI’s role as a communicator and an educator is critical in creating this understanding. An understanding that is based on a solid foundation of objectivity. That, quite simply put, is about clearly articulating the facts as they actually are, and dispelling the myths that arise from emotional, or ill-informed debate.

Around the world, vehicle manufacturers are continuously working to improve the safety, security and environmental credentials of their vehicles.

Australia is one of the most competitive new car markets in the world. The competitive nature of our market ensures that consumers have access to the latest vehicles and the latest technologies.

Australian consumers are getting world class cars, built for Australian conditions, at globally competitive prices.

Now, while our industry remains strong, it is of course, not without its challenges.

There are always immediate issues to address. Issues where our voice needs to be heard.

There are, at the same time, many important emerging issues. These issues require us to determine what needs to be done today, to facilitate their adoption or application in the future.

It is certainly not my intent to cover all of these issues tonight, however, I would like to mention some significant issues in each category.

 

A key current area of focus is the review of the Motor Vehicles Standard Act of 1989.

This Act is the legislation that provides the regulatory framework which controls the importation and first supply of road vehicles in Australia. It ensures that the Governments policy objectives, and consumer protection objectives, are both met.

It provides a national set of vehicle design and performance standards relating to safety, environment and anti-theft technologies. We refer to them as the Australian Design Rules.

We recognise of course that there is an opportunity to improve the Act, to better deliver on the Government’s policy objectives. However, we must continue to advocate strongly against the Government’s recommendation to increase the concessions for the personal importation of motor vehicles.

FCAI member brands are continuously working to provide Australian consumers with fit for purpose vehicles. Any diminution of this effort through the importation of ‘non fit for purpose’ vehicles, would most certainly not be in the best interest of the industry, consumers, or indeed, regulators, who have a stated intent of reducing ‘red tape’.

This issue will remain high on our agenda.

 

Another key area of focus in 2015 will be environmental policy.

There is no doubt that at a point in time fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will be a major issue for the industry.

The Australian automotive industry is committed to making a strong contribution to national efforts designed to reduce the impact of climate change.

For more than a decade we have continued to undertake research and development to reduce CO2 emissions from our vehicles.

A recently released National Transport Commission report has highlighted this.

The national average carbon emissions for 2014 has fallen 2.4 per cent compared to 2013.

Despite headlines to the contrary, this reduction is comparable to other countries, when considered on a like-for-like basis.

The OECD average is 2.6 per cent.

The annual reduction in Australia for passenger cars and SUVs is 3.5 per cent.

It is important that we work with the Government to ensure that there is an understanding of the efforts and achievements of manufacturers in this area.

There must also be an understanding, that to deliver real and lasting CO2 reductions from private road transport, a whole of government approach is required.

This approach must take into account all factors contributing to this issue. This includes:

  • fuel quality standards, which must match the emission technology in our vehicles,
  • the Australian consumer preference for heavier vehicles, with larger and more powerful engines coupled with automatic transmissions;
  • the use of light vehicles in Australia and how to relieve CBD congestion.
  • driver behaviour;
  • vehicle technology and the refuelling infrastructure required to support new technologies, such as electric vehicles, hybrid electrics and hydrogen fuel cells;
  • Government incentives that may encourage the uptake of new energy platforms, which come at a higher cost; and
  • steps to reduce the age of the Australian vehicle fleet.

To focus on only one area would increase the overall cost to the community without delivering the expected CO2 reduction benefits.

Throughout 2015 and beyond, we will work with the Government to facilitate a complete and considered discussion, thus ensuring that policy makers have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of this complex issue.

 

In addition to introducing technologies that deliver environmental improvements, automotive manufacturers are also delivering the next wave of automotive safety technology.

The adoption of Cooperative intelligent transport systems (or C-ITS) has the potential to reduce road accidents and improve driver, passenger and pedestrian safety.

Many brands now have models with advanced driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring.

Over the next few years brands will introduce vehicles with car-to-car, and car-to-infrastructure communications technology.

It is important for the industry to lead this issue. We need to set a timetable with the Government to allocate the required frequency band, and have the correct regulatory framework in place to facilitate the introduction of C-ITS.

In addition to safety, these technologies will have increased environmental benefits, as they are expected to reduce congestion and trip time.

It is important the automotive industry, through the FCAI, continues to engage with government at all levels, as we develop and deliver new technologies in our vehicles.

While these technologies have significant safety, environmental and performance benefits, they can only succeed with the appropriate infrastructure and support in the country in which they operate.

 

Another challenge the FCAI has been working on, is our representation at coroners’ inquests on ATV safety.

The FCAI will also continue to stress publicly, and in these inquests, the importance of known safety practices and training, when it comes to ATV use.

The proposal by some agencies which calls for the introduction of a star rating for ATV’s, or the fitting of roll bars to ATV’s, is a concern.

Such calls are based on research that doesn’t correlate sufficiently with the real-world performance of an ATV. This distracts both the media and public from practices that are proven to have an immediate impact on ATV safety.

This includes following the manufacturers’ instructions and recommendations for ATV use, wearing helmets and never allowing children to ride adult-sized ATVs.

 

The FCAI continues to work tirelessly on these and a host of other issues to ensure the policy environment in Australia is responsive to the needs of the industry.

This ensures that we have the capability to provide the best products for Australian consumers.

 

Finally, I think it goes without saying that any organisation is only as good as the people that work within it, and the people that support it.

It is important therefore that I take the time tonight to acknowledge and thank those people.

I would like to recognise my Board colleagues for their leadership of the FCAI over the past year, while at the same time, welcoming our new Board.

I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding work of our former president, Bob Graziano, and thank him for his strong leadership over the past three years.

I also recognise the great work of the FCAI Secretariat, while also recognising the expert committees that work with them to develop and enhance the wider interests of our industry.

This work is not possible of course without the great support of members, who sit on these various FCAI committees.

These committees are a source of great strength for the FCAI. They bring together the collective interests and knowledge of our members. Their advice helps the Secretariat advise the Board and advocate strongly for the sector.

Many parts of Government rely on this expertise to assist in responsible policy making and regulation development.

I would like to thank all FCAI committee members for their invaluable work over the past year. Please do not underestimate the significant contribution you make to your industry.

I would like to thank our Committee Chairs, namely;

  • David Blackhall, formerly Jaguar Land Rover, Chair of the Importers’ Group
  • Mike Hammer, Holden, Chair of the Technical Committee
  • Greg Snart, Honda MPE, Chair of the Motorcycle Engineers Committee
  • Tony Hinton, Honda MPE, Chair of the Motorcycle Group and ATV Group
  • Vesna Benns and Andrew Willis, Toyota, Chairs of the Government Policy Advisory Committee
  • Vanda Davis, Ford, Chair of the Tax Committee
  • Jenny Linsten, Ford, Chair of the Legal Committee
  • Paul Burleigh, Nissan, Chair of the Vehicle Logistics Committee
  • Peter Gillam, Nissan, Chair of the Parts and Accessories Group
  • Tom White, Ford, Chair of the Statistics and Economics Committee
  • Glenn Campbell, Toyota (2014) and David McCarthy, Mercedes-Benz (2015), Communications Committee

Please join me in thanking these Chairs and the respective committee members.

 

I would also like to recognise two very important FCAI committee members.

These members have been tireless in their efforts to advance the interests of our industry. I know that their efforts are appreciated by the Chamber, and you, the members.

 

Firstly, Ian Mearns.

Ian is the Government Affairs Director at Ford Motor Company of Australia.

He has provided leadership and advice to the FCAI through his service on the Board. He has led policy discussions and development through his role on the Government Policy Advisory Committee.

Ian also chaired the 2011–12 CO2 working group, leading industry discussions with Government.

Ian’s in-depth knowledge of the issues that face the FCAI and the industry, has been of great support to the Secretariat staff and membership.

Tonight, we recognise the significant work Ian has undertaken to advance the interests of the industry.

I proudly award Ian with an FCAI Certificate of Appreciation.

 

Secondly, turning back to the commitment of our members on FCAI committees, I would like to acknowledge the extensive contribution of Tom White to the industry and the FCAI.

In particular, Tom’s role as Chair of the FCAI Statistics and Economics Committee.

As most of you would be aware, the Statistics and Economics Committee has oversight of the VFACTS industry sales data. Hence it is a very important committee for our organisations.

Tom’s dedication to the industry is also shown through his extensive career at Ford Motor Company of Australia.

I understand Tom will retire from Ford Australia later this year after more than 40 years.

Tonight we recognise the significant contribution Tom has made to the industry and award him with an FCAI Certificate of Appreciation.

 

Tonight I would also like to give special mention to David Blackhall. At this afternoons Annual General Meeting, David was appointed as a Life Member of the FCAI.

David’s contribution to the Australian automotive industry has been significant and invaluable.

He was Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover Australia/Pacific for more than ten years, and Director of the FCAI for eight years.

As FCAI Director, David also held the roles of Vice-President and Treasurer, providing significant support to the Chamber.

Prior to Jaguar Land Rover, David worked for Ford Motor Company, initially in the graduate trainee program as a pricing analyst at the company's Melbourne Head Office. Later he completed an MBA at Melbourne University, graduating first in his class. David’s career with Ford took him through assignments in most areas of the business, in Australia and the United States.

David joined the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Company in 1991 and was ultimately appointed to lead the Ford Motor Company advertising account.

In 1997 he was recruited as General Marketing Manager for Ford's vehicle manufacturing joint venture in Taiwan.

This was followed by a move to Detroit in 1999, where he held a variety of senior posts. Upon completion of that assignment he returned to Australia and was appointed Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover Australia, and later Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific.

David retired from Jaguar Land Rover this year, and this afternoon’s AGM marked his final day as an FCAI Director.

Once again, David, on behalf of the entire FCAI membership, thank you for you outstanding contribution to both the FCAI and to the automotive industry.

 

The FCAI continue to address the challenges, and to promote the benefits, of our industry.

The Chamber will continue to educate and inform. Educate and inform to ensure that there is a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the many complex and varied issues that confront our industry.

Our vision must look well beyond today, and ensure that we are considering, ’the things that need to be done today, to facilitate a viable and sustainable industry into the future’.

By working together we can continue to raise awareness of the industry and ensure consumers, policy makers and the media alike, are presented with the facts, and that they have a greater understanding of this far-reaching and thriving industry.

I look forward to working with each and every one you to ensure our mutual success.

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