Aug 19, 2020
Automotive design at forefront of industry’s future
Australia’s automotive industry has had a rough decade, seeing the closure of the country’s three remaining motor vehicle producers in 2016 and 2017, and now dealing with the effects of the global pandemic. COVID-19 has hit the industry hard, in part due to its heavy reliance on China as a leading source of both components and vehicle sales, as well as consumer uncertainty.
As the pandemic deteriorates an already struggling market, new car sales have plummeted a record 48.5 percent in April as a direct result of the pandemic. This is the biggest fall recorded in over 30 years, and virtually all Australian car companies are reporting dramatically reduced traffic in dealerships and softening sales, according to Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber.
But though times seem bleak, this is not the coffin in the automotive industry that people may believe it to be. By taking advantage of the increased opportunities in design, the Australian automotive industry can support itself now and into the future.
The Australian design edge
While Australia may no longer be the automotive manufacturing hub it once was, design looms ever larger as an important part of the country’s automotive landscape. Manufacturers regularly highlight a vehicle’s aesthetics as among the key factors in consumer purchasing decisions, emphasising the unique look of a particular brand or model.
This is partly due to the fact that manufacturers are sharing engines and other underbody components, making aesthetics a main component in differentiating models. This means that the number of unique bodies being produced is increasing, so not only is design now more important than ever, there’s more of it to be done.
For many aspiring designers, car design is the top of the tree – well-resourced, glamorous and seen everywhere. And Australia, which has schooled a stream of great car designers over the years, has a pool of talent.
Designing from afar
When it was announced that automotive manufacturing would halt in Australia, there were many in the industry who believed design could not continue without the presence of a manufacturing facility nearby. But if the current pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that almost anything can be achieved remotely.
Technology has changed the game for remote design studios, removing the need for physical proximity. Vehicle design can now almost be done anywhere, with many manufacturers actually opting to have multiple design centres in different corners of the world, for the simple reason that they generate more potential strong designs. Today’s carmakers often run design competitions between their separate studios to promote and encourage innovation.
The future of Australian design
In consultation with key automotive industry stakeholders, the Australian Government has several ongoing programs to assist automotive businesses to adopt new advanced technologies and design capabilities. One such program is the $10 million Automotive Innovation Labs program that will assist automotive-related companies to design and test new automotive products at established commercial and research facilities.
Thirty percent of the funding from this program will establish design and test facilities in South Australia and Victoria, where businesses can access specialised equipment and facilities to design, develop and test new automotive products. This includes allowing products designed for export markets to be fully tested to international standards. The remaining 70 percent of funding will aid businesses undertaking automotive product development including design, prototype and development activities.
This reflects the county’s shift away from original automotive manufacturing and movement towards vehicle design, modification and component manufacturing.
If you are looking for skilled automotive employees, contact Bayside Group Automotive today and speak with one of our consultants.