Walkabout: The Australian adventure

Frank Massey reflects on what he learned during an extended tour of the Australian automotive aftermarket late last year

By Frank Massey | Published:  30 January, 2019

Having just spent three weeks touring New South Wales, while delivering two training events, firstly in Sydney then Canberra I thought it would be interesting to compare how our two different, but also similar markets operate.

The visit began several months ago with an invitation from a good friend Bob Whyms, Australia’s prominent Porsche specialist in Sydney. The offer comes as part of a training group called Australian Aftermarket Service Dealer Network (AASDN). This is a group of totally independent service and repair independents across the whole of Australia.

 It was formed from disillusioned members from the Bosch Aftermarket Service Dealership Network, or BASDN. Around 70% agreed to form AASDN with the view of promoting mutual support and training across the whole of the continent. Members pay a subscription to a fund that provides venues and trainers across the continent. My understanding is they number about four per season.

Mutual respect
It is important to understand the incredible geographical constraints yet obvious bond they share for their independence and mutual respect. If I may reflect on our very own Autoinform event in Harrogate in November, where I am sure all attendees would recognise the same sentiments from the AASDN group.

I was also privileged to visit several businesses in both Sydney and en-route to Canberra. The BWA Porsche specialist host and first training venue, based in the western suburbs, provides genuine expertise in depth from Bob and now also his son Craig. This ranges from servicing to performance upgrades.

BWA provide a parts service across Australia importing directly from Germany. They also provide a comprehensive machine shop service, which supports their engine remanufacture and performance business. Bob and I had fun reflecting on Bosch D Jetronic and other early evolutions of fuel injection, grumpy old men and all that!

I was then treated to a visit to a highly respected Mercedes tuning expert close to the airport. Then finally, a very talented young technician specialising in DPF cleaning. The focus on training included ignition diagnostic technique, common rail and direct gasoline injection.

It was both a pleasure and privilege to share the enthusiasm from the entire audience, their knowledge and interaction was mutually appreciated.

In a far too brief visit to Dubbo, my good friend Paul gave me an insight into the more remote reaches of the trade. I was equally impressed with the dedication and superb workshop facilities. I also experienced several near-misses from kangaroos!

Special mention
I should give special mention to  my incredible visit to the Bathurst 1000 race. It is an institution among fans and an incredible two-mile hill town circuit, constructed from urban roads. AASDN host a VIP lounge for their members.  Imagine that at Silverstone! It only takes commitment and support with a little cash.

One week down, heavy rain and in the good company of Alan, a diesel shop owner, we travelled down the coast, whale watching in Huskisson Bay. Then onto Canberra, via AASDN committee member Alan. Despite having just lost his home and all his possessions from a bush fire, Alan remarkably still provided accommodation in his temporary rental home.
Our hosts in Canberra, Derek and Ros, operate a large high-end diesel specialist shop. The second training event was a mirror image of Sydney, supported by a second incredible array of AASDN members. Incredible not just for their knowledge and confidence but their interaction over the three days.

The evenings from both events was spent socialising in steak houses chatting over mutual challenges. From my experience the vehicle market share was quite diverse, lots of Asian cars, and a remarkable number of VWs. It was a surprise to learn that that both Ford and Holden have ceased production in Australia due to a lack of competitive pricing. I was told of a delegate who attended the Canberra event who heard of my visit two days before the Friday start, purchased a flight, closed his workshop and travelled from Perth to attend. It is a 3,000km journey. To put that into some local UK context, I once had a conversation with a parts distributor in Kent several years ago, when a training event had to be relocated from Canterbury college to Ashford, 17.5 miles away. He cancelled the whole event without asking the delegates. The reason? He said, “they won’t travel that far.”
I see little differences between our two cultures. I find the same dedication and passion. Sadly for the UK, they seem to have more of it.




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