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Glenn Fitzgerald

THE potential for disruption in the Australian transport industry is to come under the microscope in a research program aimed at assisting companies manage the changes, including the effect on dealerships, brought with the shift to electric vehicles and new technology-based players including Google.

The research about the changes and how Australian companies can positively react is being undertaken by RMIT University’s professor of marketing Francis Farrelly with funding from Melbourne-based corporate events and incentives company Destination.

Professor Farrelly, who has already started discussing the future challenges of the automotive industry with business leaders in Australia and overseas, said the industry will need to compete effectively in the future and improve its capabilities in leadership, marketing, design, external partnerships and corporate culture.

“New technology, global competition, high costs of local labour and changing consumer behaviours are all affecting the profitability of established operations, but there are opportunities for companies that are ready to adapt,” he said.

“This research will provide a substantive view of current and future needs and trends and will allow us to analyse the depth of innovation and design capabilities across the automotive sector. It will also highlight areas where greater skills investment is required.”

Despite the significant change the automotive industry is undergoing, it remains a major contributor to the Australian economy and is still considered an essential part of the fabric of the nation.

A 2017 report predicted that even after car manufacturing plant closures that year, the industry would contribute $A37.1 billion to the economy, or 2.1 per cent of GDP, and employ 360,000 people.

Professor Farrelly is an award-winning international educator, researcher and consultant with more than 20 years’ experience researching and publishing on marketing and innovation.

He has also collaborated with major national and global brands as well as state and federal governments, recently completing a white paper on innovation for the federal government’s Taskforce on Innovation.

Destination CEO Glenn Fitzgerald said: “Destination has always been a forward-thinking company and we believe that by investing in the right skills and capabilities, existing businesses can evolve to thrive on that change.

“This grant is about identifying those capability needs.”

He said the research would assist Destination in tailoring its corporate education programs for maximum client benefit.

Destination runs incentive and business insights programs for the automotive industry to international locations focusing on issues such as digital marketing, branding, creative thinking and innovation.

The destination is key to the program. The company recently sent clients to New Zealand to meet with Peter Jackson’s film company, with a focus on creativity.

Then in Adelaide it met with RM Williams and businesses in the Barossa Valley to discuss heritage and branding, and in New York they were based on an aircraft carrier and had speakers from organisations including NASA.

By Neil Dowling

Francis Farrelly (left) and Glenn Fitzgerald

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