President's Address -- FCAI Annual General Meeting Dinner, Canberra 2017

1st June, 2017


Good evening and welcome to tonight’s FCAI annual dinner. It is our pleasure to host you here at Old Parliament House. This of course, was the home of the Federal Parliament for over 60 years, and a very fitting location, I believe, for our Dinner this evening.

I trust that our vehicle technology display, coupled with our opening video has given you a strong sense of the rapid advancements currently taking place in our industry. The display will remain open until 10pm, so if you didn’t have the opportunity to have a look on the way in, please feel free to do so throughout the course of the evening. I will talk more about this technology shortly.

At the outset I’d like to echo Tony’s welcome to our Politicians and Department personnel who have taken the time to attend. Minister Fletcher, thank you for agreeing to present this evening. To our other distinguished guests, fellow Board members, delegates, and of course colleagues from across the automotive industry, welcome.

This building has witnessed many of the great changes that have shaped Australian social and political life.

It has hosted many significant debates that influenced the Australia we know today. Political careers were both, launched and extinguished, while many key decisions that informed our growth as a nation had their genesis, right here.

One of those key decisions represented a significant turning point for our industry. It in fact set the trajectory of the sector for several decades to come. I speak of course of the Button Car Plan.

The Plan’s objectives were to promote innovation, modernisation and efficiency. Over time the Australian automotive sector evolved to meet these objectives.

The Plan started the process of reducing Australia’s tariff barriers, ultimately contributing to a more open vehicle market. It laid the foundations for the new car market as we know it today – one of the most competitive in the world, offering world-leading consumer choice and affordability. In fact, new cars today are at their most affordable levels since records began in 1976.

In parallel, this competition also saw improved safety and environmental outcomes for all Australians.

The proof of this is evident in our vehicle technology showcase tonight.

Many of these technologies were once a thing of science fiction, however they are now rapidly becoming commonplace, with many already available in showrooms. As the video just aired demonstrated, these vehicles, and one sports motorcycle, are among the many personal mobility products that now sit at the cutting edge of new generation safety and product engineering technology.

On display are examples of highly efficient petrol and diesel combustion engines, together with hybrid, plug-in electric and even a hydrogen- powered vehicle, which emits only water vapour.

The technology ranges from that which alerts the driver when the vehicle is about to deviate from a traffic lane, and helps the driver steer and keep the vehicle on course, all the way through to vehicles with levels of autonomy which will be commonplace in the future.

The Kawasaki motorcycle boasts an intelligent braking system, cornering management and five- stage traction control system.

The display represents some of the latest road- ready safety and environmental technologies. It encapsulates the pinnacle of global automotive engineering. These life-saving, fuel-saving and emission-saving technologies began as a trickle into our market five or so years ago, and today are rapidly becoming a river as the rate of technology introduction accelerates.

Every new model year, the technology which was once seen only in high-end luxury cars, or niche segments, becomes increasingly more accessible and affordable.

However, what’s important to remember is that the full benefits of these technologies will always be limited until factors such as regulatory standards, infrastructure and market acceptance are in place to support them.

This, of course, is where governments can take the lead.

It is imperative that any green field planning, such as new roads and highways, incorporate vehicle to infrastructure requirements, as well as the necessary recharging and refuelling infrastructure, into the planning brief.

Similarly, all established road infrastructure will need to be systematically reviewed, so the networks used to connect our transport systems in future years, do so seamlessly. This will enable consumers and society to enjoy the full benefits of the vehicles technology.

The technology which the car makers can deliver already has a certain amount of failsafe built in, and that work will intensify as more driver assistance features are added. To simply depend on the vehicle to do all the heavy lifting will leave the Australian community well short of where fully autonomous transport can take us.

There is no denying that getting this right presents a sizeable and challenging task for our policy makers, especially given the myriad of questions surrounding full autonomy – particularly the legal ones, which don’t necessarily have ready-made answers.

So in essence, the industry needs the government to partner with us to undertake preparatory activities into vehicle to infrastructure connectivity.

We acknowledge that at present only a small proportion of Australia’s current fleet of some 18 million vehicles can take advantage of it.

However, what we know with absolute certainty – because automotive history offers us many, many lessons here - is that Australians are early adopters, and they love their cars and technology.

The consumer wants advanced features, such as driver assistance. The competitive nature of our industry will accelerate the introduction of these technologies faster than we can ever imagine.

We also know that it will enhance lives . . . and save lives. It will make us more productive, it will enrich our lifestyles, and it will give mobility to the immobile.

I am sure that there are no surprises in any of this for most people in this room: technology and competition have always been the drivers of progress in the vehicle industry.

In order to compete and progress, and to deliver the choice and value for money that makes our market envied by many around the world, our industry needs legislative certainty across both vehicles and infrastructure.

Our lead times on product planning and model cycles are made a long way out: generally five years in a passenger car or SUV model cycle, and longer for commercial vehicles.

The cost of vehicle development often runs into billions of dollars, so the industry requires certainty to give us confidence in our decision making.

We are now sitting at one of those critical moments in the history of our industry. In the months to come, the government will make critical decisions regarding our future fuel quality, CO2 emission and pollutants, and like industry is continuously pursuing improved safety.

Australia’s annual sales of new vehicles is less than 1.5 per cent of global production. It makes no sense to go it alone, but to harmonise with UN regulations. To sit outside this framework will limit consumer choice as manufacturers will often lack scale, and therefore the business case, to invest in Australian specific product.

Consumer choice and product diversity helps maintain our industry momentum. Our buyers not only desire choice, they demand it.

The industry has responded to this demand. The Australian new car market –     1.1 million vehicles a year, or less than one month of sales for a market the size of the US – is modest by international standards, however as previously mentioned, our industry’s model range is extraordinary, and among the most diverse in the world.

To continue to deliver and expand upon such a range of product with increasingly advanced technological features, high quality low sulphur petrol is essential.           That is 95 RON, with 10ppm sulphur.

This fuel quality must be accessible Australia wide. Consumers need to be able to drive with confidence from here to Wilcannia, and north to Longreach, with the complete assurance that our standard transport grade petrol quality will be consistent wherever they refill.

By stepping up to higher quality fuel, the research clearly shows we will gain benefits across the fleet in environmental outcomes and vehicle efficiency. These benefits will be consistent with those already available in other major markets.

Australia has the lowest quality petrol of the 35 countries in the OECD, below Mexico, Turkey and Estonia. Is it acceptable that Australia is ranked 66th in the world and last in the OECD for fuel quality?

The Australian automotive industry wishes to provide consumers with access to the most advanced vehicles in the world, and the emissions reductions that will flow from these.

We know, of course, and as evidenced by our technology showcase tonight, that other fuel types will also be part of our fleet mix. The hydrogen- powered Mirai parked outside is proof of that, as is the BMW hybrid.

Around the world, vehicle emissions are a fierce point of public discussion.

Our view, as an industry, has always been to seek the best quality outcomes. Simply put, that is what our customers and society deserve.

At this juncture I would like to publicly thank those from within our industry, particularly the members of the FCAI’s Technical Committee and the CO2 Working Group, who have worked diligently on building this important framework to assist the government throughout the review process.

And while the FCAI and its committees represent industry throughout this broad-based review, they are also advocating on behalf of the sector for 14 other government reviews currently underway, at both the State and Federal level.

I wish to acknowledge their work and commend them for their commitment to ensuring an industry voice for our sector during this period of significant government focus.

We are highly fortunate, in that our industry is a storehouse of knowledge and expertise across a broad range of skillsets. Our industry representation benefits enormously from tapping into that storehouse and international best practice.

It is projects such as the fuel and emissions work which reaffirm the important activity of our committee structure, a structure wherein the pooled expertise and knowledge from within the FCAI membership contributes to the benefit, of not just our industry, but to the nation.

I would now like to recognise the many people that assist and support the FCAI.

Any organisation is only as good as the people that work within it, and the people that support it.

Before I finish tonight, it is therefore important that I take the time to acknowledge and thank those people.

I would like to recognise my Board colleagues for their engagement and leadership of the FCAI over the past year. 

I also recognise the great work of the FCAI Secretariat who provide excellent representation of the wide interests of our sector with government, the media and other stakeholders.

This work is not possible of course without the great support of members, in particular through the various FCAI committees.

FCAI committees are a source of great strength for the FCAI. They bring together the collective skill and knowledge of our members. Their advice helps the Secretariat inform 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:

Richard Emery, Nissan, Chair of the Members Committee

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

Ian Mearns, Ford, Chair of the Government Policy Advisory Committee

Asja Jaksic, Toyota, Chair of the Tax Committee

Benjamin Lee, Mercedes-Benz, Chair of the Legal Committee

Paul Burleigh, Nissan, Chair of the Vehicle Logistics Committee

Paula Hilditch, Holden, Chair of the Parts and Accessories Group

Phil Larmour, Volvo, Chair of the Service Manager’s panel

Byron Albrecht, Toyota, Chair of the Statistics and Economics Committee

David McCarthy, Mercedes-Benz, Chair of the Communications Committee

Andrew Willis, Toyota, Chair of the CO2 Working Group

Ashley Sanders, Mitsubishi, Chair of the EV and Fuels & Emissions Working Groups

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

Last, but by no means least, I would now like to take the time to recognise two very important FCAI committee members, as well as another member of the FCAI.

These members have been tireless in their efforts to advance the interests of the Australian automotive industry. I know that their efforts are appreciated by the FCAI secretariat and all members.

The first certificate of appreciation is for a member that has played a significant leadership role within the FCAI Committee structure, Paul Burleigh from Nissan. Paul has been the Chair of the FCAI Vehicle Logistics Committee since its inception more than a decade ago, and prior to that was an active member of the Customs Committee.

Paul’s significant experience and commercial acumen is well recognised by the committee members and by the various government agencies with which the FCAI interacts. Paul’s expertise has seen him guide the Committee through a range of challenging logistics and supply chain considerations. This included the development of an industry positon on major infrastructure developments such as the new Webb Dock West automotive facility at the Port of Melbourne.

Please welcome Paul to the podium. 

The second certificate of appreciation is for Mike Hammer from GM-Holden. Mike has represented GM-Holden on the Technical Committee since 2008 and has been the Chair for the last 5 years.

Mike’s technical expertise has been important in helping develop the FCAI positions in many critical areas of vehicle certification and standards, and more recently in the areas of vehicle emissions and C-ITS.

Please welcome Mike to the podium.

And the final certificate of appreciation is for Norma Paterson. Norma was seconded to  the FCAI and FAPM from the Department of Industry, Technology & Commerce in 1987 for a few months and stayed for two years.

In 1989 she took up a position with FAPM as the Executive Assistant to the Technical Services Manager. Norma remained with FAPM until they ceased operations in Canberra in 2009, whereupon she ‘walked across the hallway’ and joined FCAI as the Executive Assistant to the Directors. Norma continued with FCAI until September 2016. Please join me in acknowledging Norma’s 29 year contribution to the industry.

Congratulations once again to Paul, Mike, and Norma for your commitment to the industry.

On behalf of the entire FCAI Board, I wish to pass on my sincere thanks to all of you here this evening for your contribution to our vibrant industry.

You all, in one way or another, play a significant role. 

We look forward to working with each and every one you to ensure mutually successful outcomes in the future.

Thank you

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