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Tomcar welcomes industry shake-up

Full throttle: Tomcar is struggling to keep up with demand for its range of tough off-road vehicles, while all other automotive brands prepare for the end.

Move away from traditional Australian manufacturing model 'healthy': Tomcar

17 Feb 2016

AUSTRALIA'S manufacturing industry continues to hang in a state of flux but while large-scale automotive production is drawing to a close, rising all-terrain vehicle manufacturer Tomcar is welcoming the period of transition.

As sales of Australian-made vehicles from Ford and Holden wind down ahead of the end of local production, the Melbourne-based start-up manufacturer has enjoyed record sales for the past three months.

Speaking to GoAuto in an exclusive interview, Tomcar Australia co-founder and CEO David Brim said the shake-up to Australian manufacturing should be viewed as a positive and an opportunity to survive through diversification.

“In a way that's why it is healthy for Australia to loose their traditional car manufacturing industry because it is forcing everyone to naval-gaze and say what do we do now?” he said.

Mr Brim added that Australia had been presented with opportunities to respond to a changing industrial environment, but without government encouragement and guidance, it had kept its hands in it pockets.

“There is no reason Australia can't be like Germany or Switzerland. We need to build things that nobody else can build. We've just had ten years of mining boom but do we make mining equipment? We still buy it from overseas. We should be building that here.

“The problem is, and I'm really frustrated with government, they are actively encouraging people to get out of automotive and I don't think that is the right strategy. We need to encourage more companies like Tomcar to be started here in Australia.

“We can become a nation of niche manufacturers but the government can't see that. We (Tomcar) have had no government assistance in ten years. I would love assistance but we've had to resign ourselves that it's not coming.” On the back of increasing sales and a growing line-up of vehicles, the company urgently needs to grow the team to keep up with demand, but explained that government assistance policies only help organisations looking for tangible capital expenditure projects.

“That's where we fall through the cracks with government because they are used to giving money for capital expenditure here's the money to by a robot to put six people out of a job. I want money to hire someone and there are no grants for that.” Mr Brim voiced his frustration of the government's push for a more service-based future and a move away from a production industry.

“Manufacturing isn't cool any more in the government's eyes. They want to move to a service-based economy but you can't do that. Over 55 per cent of all services are directly related to manufacturing.” It may seem like a long bow to draw but the relatively small operations of Australia's Tomcar brand are similar to the success of United States electric-vehicle producer Tesla and its founder Elon Musk. Both are start-up companies swimming against the current, producing specialised vehicles.

“Elon has come from outside the car industry and so have we. That's the key difference. Elon Musk made a lot of money and he's also spent a lot of money.” Mr Brim concluded by recollecting the advise of former Toyota Australia chairman emeritus and Tomcar advisor John Conomos.

“John Conomos was on our board of advisors in the early years and he said you have picked the most expensive industry. He was right but you need to pay to do things properly.” Tomcar offer a range of specialised off-road vehicles that are built at the company's Oakleigh South manufacturing facility in Melbourne's East.

The range is comprised of the TM2 two-seater, TM4 four-seater and TM5 ute, with a choice of five variants which can be applied to a selection of the models. Prices start from $28,000 delivered.

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