Rival auto industry lobbies join forces, good or bad for consumers?

For decades, there has been friction between automakers, car dealerships and independent repairers, as each cutting-edge body fights for its corner — and its customers. Now the three opposing camps form a united front. Is it good or bad for car buyers?

The big wheels in Australia’s auto industry have put aside their historic rivalries to join forces and create a superpower – and a one-stop shop – to lobby policymakers on automotive issues.

But the jury is out on whether this will be good or bad for the motoring public and car buyers.

For decades there has been competition – and friction – between the three different cutting edge bodies that represent car manufacturers, car dealers and independent repairers across Australia.

But now the cutting edge bodies of these three rival groups have signed an unprecedented agreement to work together as they lobby policy makers and work on changes that will impact showrooms, workshops and motorists.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (which represents multinational car companies) has in recent years been at odds with the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (which represents showroom owners nationally) and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (which represents independent repairers).

Until last week’s announcement at a car industry convention in Brisbane last week, the carmakers’ lobby group – and car dealerships – had been trying to limit independent repairers’ access to technical informations.

The auto giants’ lobby group has also recently been in dispute with the Auto Dealers Association over sweeping changes to franchise laws, following Holden’s shock departure and recent switch to business models. fixed price for Honda and Mercedes-Benz.

But in a remarkable turnaround announced last week, the three opposing parties have formed a partnership and pledged to work together.

Conduct was told that government policymakers were tired of being regularly approached by three different sectors of the auto industry and encouraged rival agencies to come together with one voice – and try to resolve differences without requiring intervention government or justice.

However, without the friction between the three parties, it is unclear at this time what this means for new car buyers and motorists in general.

Industry veteran and former high-ranking automotive company executive David Blackhall – who is now chairman of the Australian Automotive Dealers Association and as such has deep knowledge of two of the three automotive sectors industry – told the conference in Brisbane last week: “As the world brings new challenges globally and locally… we need to find a united voice for our industry.

“Can we have a voice that actually speaks to government, regulators to achieve a unified optimized outcome? We have to work with the (car companies). We have to work with distributors, we have to work with industry players. But above all, we need to work better with each other. We must work in partnership with each other.

Mr Blackhall, who helped bring together the three opposing car lobbies, added: “Can this idea succeed? I do not know. Let me say it again. I am not sure.

“But I’m sure we have to try new and even risky approaches if we want to move forward.”

Mr Blackhall acknowledged that the idea of ​​the three rival car lobbies working together was once unimaginable.

“Even four or five years ago, we thought it was impossible. Is it perfect? No. Does he give everyone everything he wants? No. Does it give everyone a slice of what they might need? I think so.”

To underscore his point, Mr Blackhall paraphrased the words of the rock group Rolling Stones at the auto industry conference: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try for a little while you might get what you need.”

Australia’s Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, told the Car Dealers Conference: “If the industry hadn’t been leading this (alliance), I suspect lawmakers might have gotten involved.

“Who knows your industry best? You guys can best chart the way forward. We should celebrate this progress (and) the call for greater collaboration, co-dependency, shared interest and the symbiotic role these (three lobby groups) have in the success of your industry.

While highlighting the ongoing costly and protracted legal battles between a number of Holden dealers and US giant General Motors – and a number of Mercedes-Benz dealers and the German car giant – Mr Billson said: “Have a big battle business and lawyers love it.

“Can we do better than that? Can’t we bring together the parties with a mutual interest in the success of your industry and fix this problem?

“Well, your industry said ‘yes.’ They got together. They have worked together and I would like to commend these three industry bodies for their role and leadership in seeing that there is a better way to resolve some of these fundamental disputes which (could result in) withdrawal from the Australian market.

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for over 20 years, spending most of his time working for the Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and an early member of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice/Drive in late 2018 and was a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.

Learn more about Joshua Dowling IconLink