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THE year 2020 has been a year to forget but one that has taught the industry and its players important lessons about the fluid nature of our natural world and its unpredictability that affects seemingly unrelated fields as selling or repairing a car.

With those lessons learnt in 2020, and with an unexpectedly buoyant new-vehicle market and healthy automotive industry, we ask two leading bodies about their wishlist for 2021 – what they want to sustain and grow the industry and its people.

The Australian Automotive Dealers Association, with about 3200 franchises and 1500 owners, sees its main priority for 2021 in further reforms on automotive franchising.

James Voortman

AADA CEO James Voortman told GoAutoNews Premium that 2020 saw some gains on this issue with the implementation of an automotive schedule to the franchising code; the news that dealers would be exempt from needing authorisations to collectively bargain; and the extension of unfair contract term protections to more of our members.

“Despite all of these reforms, General Motors showed us that manufacturers are still able to ruthlessly exploit dealers and we believe stronger reforms need to be enacted as soon as possible given many OEMs are considering making significant changes to their networks and business models,” Mr Voortman said.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association said the passing of the mandatory data sharing law was likely to dominate the year ahead.

AAAA CEO Stuart Charity said his association will be informing its members and car owners about what choice and fair competition will mean after the legislation becomes law on July 1, 2022.

Stuart Charity

It also has a busy year in other areas. Mr Charity said the AAAA is setting up the Automotive Service and Repair Authority (ASRA) which will support the new law by providing access to secure data release and supporting the accreditation of independent repairers.

“The new Road Vehicle Standards Act becomes law in July 2021 and this new law has implications for our Second Stage Manufacturers (SSMs),” he said.

“We are working closely with governments to make sure that our world-class suspension and GVM (gross vehicle mass) upgrade industry continues to support business fleet purchasers seeking to modify vehicles before first registration.”

Other AAAA wishlist and planned issues are:

  • The Auto Innovation Centre will open a new facility in South Australia in 2021 which Mr Charity said was exciting news for the aftermarket modifications and accessory parts manufacturers. The centre will continue to introduce new product development and product testing equipment, supporting the development of new Australian products for export and domestic supply.  The AIC has a rolling program of purchasing new vehicle models to provide access to these models for Australian auto parts producers to develop new products.
  • AAAA is continuing to invest in Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) calibration and EV facilities and is introducing services to support members that are developing commercial opportunities for new technologies. Mr Charity said it was “Interesting to see that independent repairers are developing formal clusters to invest in systems and new technologies to service and repair ADAS and alternate fuels.”
  • The AAAA is also continuing with its consumer awareness campaigns to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights under the Australian Consumer Law.  Consumer awareness materials will be updated and delivered via the independent repair networks.
  • Mr Charity said that more investment will be dedicated to market research to map out the economic contribution of the aftermarket particularly in the growing export of Australian 4WD accessories. “Considerable activity planned for ensuring that state and federal laws provide clear and consistent advice for vehicle owners seeking to modify vehicles for Australian conditions,” he said.

The AADA said aside from the main issue of further reforms on automotive franchising, it – like the AAAA – is focusing on the coming regulations which will compel manufacturers to share service and repair information with independent repairers.

“We accept that such regulation is now inevitable and will work constructively with industry and government,” Mr Voortman said.

“This new law needs to take into account that dealers invest significantly in equipment, genuine parts and training of their technicians, so it is important that the government follows through on its commitment to ensure information is shared on fair and reasonable commercial terms.”

Other work to be done through the year at the AADA includes:

  • Looking at the regulations facing dealer finance and insurance departments. Mr Voortman said the AADA will be trying to positively influence reforms ranging from the introduction of a deferred sales model for add-on insurance to the abolition of the point of sale exemption.
  • Vehicle emissions and the emergence of electric vehicles is an issue which is being fiercely debated by both the Federal and State governments.
  • Taxation continues to make new cars in Australia more expensive than they need to be.
  • There are still calls for used-car imports which Mr Voortman said would be fiercely opposed “and we will monitor the exploitation of specialist vehicle import schemes”.
  • “Finally, the issue of customer data is fast emerging as a key issue for our industry and it is more important than ever that dealers assert their control of this data and their ability to share this data,” he said.

By Neil Dowling