Around one million new cars are sold in Australia (population 25.7 million) each year, and the country had its own unique cars which were popular with local buyers. The last two local automakers were Holden and the local branch of Ford, but both have ceased motor vehicle production, and today Australia produces exactly no cars per year.
The last car factory still in operation was the Holden Elizabeth factory located near Adelaide in South Australia. It was opened in 1963 and it reached its peak production between 2003 and 2005 when it produced vehicles at a rate of 780 vehicles per day; in its final year, 2017, which had fallen to 175 vehicles per day.
Ford had also closed its two main Australian manufacturing sites in 2016, after a history of building cars that spanned nearly a century. All these closures took place after the local currency, the Australian dollar, suffered from high inflation, as well as the country’s reluctance to adopt measures against climate change and
Now this report of The Guardian says electric vehicles could hold the key to resurrecting car manufacturing in Australia. He cites a study by the Carmichael Center of the Australia Institute which indicates that although no more cars are produced, the automotive segment still employs 34,258 people, although they only manufacture components to be assembled elsewhere.
The first step would be to ramp up that parts production for the global supply chain, and while that wouldn’t lead to a restart of auto production in the country, it would certainly benefit the Australian economy. The prospect of building an electric car from scratch is undeniably difficult, but there are a handful of successful startups that have proven it can be done.
Australia also has a strong base of people with experience in the automotive segment – it has a vibrant automotive tradition, and this could potentially make it an attractive location for manufacturers to consider investing in. Now, whether or not companies decide it’s a good idea to assemble vehicles there too or simply expand the supply chain contribution remains to be seen.
The report also highlights Australia’s expanding mining and production of lithium, the most important element for building electric vehicle batteries. If the country could also process lithium locally instead of shipping it in raw form (known as spodumene), then it could increase the value of the industry from $1.1 billion recorded in 2017 to 22, $1 billion.
Australia hasn’t been the same without its locally built cars, but while this global shift to electric vehicles could present opportunities for them, mindsets will need to change (especially among politicians who don’t care about going green ).
According to Dr. Mark Dean of the Carmichael Centre, the report’s lead author,
For decades, the auto industry was the glue that held communities together. It offered security and a good standard of living.
What you will do is tell all these different people in all these different communities that by creating a future that is focused on the electric vehicle industry, you will benefit.
We need people to extract these raw materials, to process them, and we need them to be transported so that they can be manufactured – everyone benefits.