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Australian automotive manufacturing could now employ more people than worked at Ford's Broadmeadows and Geelong factories and Holden's Elizabeth factory combined when local manufacturing officially ended in Australia in 2016 and 2017.
The boom is being driven by our relative new "remanufacturing" industry, largely sparked by our hunger for left-hand-drive US pick-up trucks, and being spearheaded by companies like Premcar, Walkinshaw and RMA.
Both products have been very well received by Australian buyers, with the program expanding year on year to incorporate more model lines. The Premcar business now employs some 150 people in Epping, with that number growing – in fact, the company is in the process of doubling its manufacturing footprint.
Ford tells CarsGuide there's currently 250 people involved in the project, and with that number to scale up with demand.
Then there's the Walkinshaw Group, which is hard at work on so many automotive remanufacturing projects it can be hard to keep up.
The RAM 1500 is converted by the Walkinshaw team, and the Toyota Tundra is undergoing its Australianisation there, too. Then there's the Chevrolet Silverado, the VW Amarok W-Series and the upcoming Mitsubishi Triton Xtreme, not to mention its caravan division.
Walkinshaw says it now employs a total 1050 on its Australian automotive business, and will produce an estimated 13,000 units this year.
That brings the total number to up to more than 1450 people, more even than were employed in factories during the final days of local manufacturing by Holden and Ford.
Holden's Elizabeth factory closure in 2017 left 950 staff out of work, more than 80 percent of whom happily found further employment elsewhere. Ford's shuttering of its Broadmeadows and Geelong plants in 2016 saw some 600 manufacturing workers let go. It is important to note, though, that both companies had begun trimming their workforces long before the final factory closures.
And that's before you tally up the satellite business providing parts and know-how to the companies above. Some 80 percent of the new content added to the Nissan Patrol Warrior by Premcar, for example, was sourced locally.
"One of the great things we did with the car was we used our local supplier base for 80 percent of the content we've added to the car," says Premcar engineering director, Bernie Quinn.
"The unique Warrior content is sourced locally, manufactured locally. We've used all of those suppliers we used to use back in the day.
"It's a great story about the rejuvenation of the Australian manufacturing scene, too. We're really proud to be part of this rejuvenation."
Helping drive this industry boom is the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), established in 2015 to "drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness across Australia’s manufacturing industry", and which identifies and supports local businesses with global potential.
“If we can look past the often heard yet plain wrong statement of ‘we don’t manufacture anything in Australia anymore because we don’t make cars’, we find a highly innovative ecosystem of manufacturers employing Australians in highly skilled, resilient and competitive jobs serving global customers – including automotive giants demanding globally relevant products manufactured in Australia," says Dr Jens Goennemann, Managing Director, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.
"Automotive remanufacturing companies such as Walkinshaw, Premcar and others, are responding to customer demands – such as conversions – while developing nurseries for automotive innovation that will extend beyond our shores."
“The face of Australia’s automotive industry is evolving to be more innovative and internationally competitive. With 75 percent of global trade occurring in intermediate, or unfinished goods in the first place, Australian automotive equipment manufacturers such as REDARC, Carbon Revolution and Doftek exemplify the opportunities that are out there to become part of the worldwide automotive supply chain."