EVs May Hold Key To Australian Automotive Manufacturing Revival

Around one million new cars are sold in Australia (population 25.7-million) each year, and the country used to have its own unique cars that were really popular with local buyers. The last two local car manufacturers were Holden and the local arm of Ford, but both of which have ceased the production of motor vehicles and right now Australia manufactures exactly zero cars per year.

The last car plant that was still operational was the Holden Elizabeth plant located near Adelaide in South Australia. It was opened in 1963 and it reached its peak output between 2003 and 2005 when it was churning out vehicles at a rate of 780 vehicles per day; in its final year, 2017, that had dropped to 175 vehicles per day.

Ford had also closed both of its main Aussie manufacturing locations by 2016, after a history of building cars that stretched nearly a century. All these closures came about after the local currency, the Australian Dollar, suffered severe inflation, as well as the country’s reticence to move adopt measures against climate change and 

Now this report from The Guardian says that EVs might hold the key to Australia’s automotive manufacturing resurrection. It cites a study from the Australia Institute’s Carmichael Centre that says even though no more cars are being produced, the automotive segment still employs 34,258 people, although they are just making components for assembly elsewhere.

The first step would be to increase this production of parts for the global supply chain, and even if this may not lead to a restart of car production in the country, it would certainly benefit Australia’s economy. The prospect of making 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 place for manufacturers to consider investing in. Now whether or not companies decide it’s a good idea to assemble vehicles there too or just expand the supply chain contribution, that remains to be seen.

The report also points to Australia’s expansion of lithium mining and production, the element that’s most important for the building of electric vehicle battery packs. If the country could also process the lithium locally instead of shipping it out in raw form (known as spodumene), then it could increase the industry’s value from the $1.1-billion it recorded in 2017 to $22.1-billion.

Australia has not been the same without its locally built cars, but while this global shift towards electric vehicles could present them with opportunities, mentalities will have to change (especially among politicians who do not care about going green).

According to Dr. Mark Dean from Carmichael Centre, the lead author of the report, 

For decades the auto industry was the glue that held communities together. It provided security and good standards of living. 

What you’ll be doing is saying to all these different people in all these different communities that by creating an electric vehicle industry-driven future, you will benefit. 

We need people to mine these commodities, process them, and we need them to be transported so they can be manufactured – everyone along the way benefits.