Here’s another note we’d like to share from our trip to Australia to visit with high-performance and racing companies as part of Australia Automotive Week. A US magazine journalist and myself were able to get some private time with Richard Dalla-Riva, who is currently Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade for the state of Victoria.
It’s always great to meet with any government official who’s ready to support the performance racing industry, but it’s especially fun to meet with someone who’s done some wrenching in his time as Dalla-Riva has.
A former policeman in Melbourne, Dalla-Riva is quite capable of performing his duties in laying out the big picture of Victoria’s current plans to bring more businesses and jobs to the area. He is very articulate in describing the importance of networking across industries. It’s not unusual in Australia, for example, for companies to have more than automotive identities, as they may have technology with applications in defense, aviation and other industries. The Australian market is limited in size, with a total population of just over 22 million for the entire country, and 5.5 million for Victoria. So, successful entrepreneurs become creative when it comes to growth, expanding into other industries or taking their products overseas.
Dalla-Riva said that the automotive sector is the largest full-time employer in Victoria, and represents a strong export industry for the whole country. While the economy in Australia has been doing quite well, despite the severity of the global economic recession, the Aussie dollar has gotten ever stronger, making its exports more expensive in markets like the US and elsewhere.
“Despite a small economic downturn, there has been growth in manufacturing in Victoria,” said Dalla-Riva, noting that small manufacturers account for 90% of the manufacturing base. “One of our growth markets is the aftermarket.”
That was a prime motivator for the state of Victoria to support the efforts of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) to create an exhibit of performance products at the F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne during Australia Automotive Week.
Dalla-Riva described the advantages of infrastructure in Victoria, as well as areas where the government is innovating in nurturing business development.
And then we asked him for his personal take on cars. “I’ve always enjoyed American muscle cars,” he said, a smile broadening quickly across his face. “My father took me to this thing called drag racing, and that was it.”
His first car was a Chrysler he picked up for $478. A Holley carb was the first new part he bought for it. “We were all into big blocks,” said Dalla-Riva. And he remembers his efforts to get more horsepower out of his Hillman Hunter, porting and polishing it cylinder head for the four-cylinder motor. “There I was, grinding away at night.”
He’s a big fan of NHRA racing, as well as all the national NASCAR series. “Anything that’s got a V8,” said Dalla-Riva.
In short, Dalla-Riva is passionate about cars and speed.
Many performance and racing companies wish to establish a strong presence in the US performance and racing market, and some already have done so. The AAAA organizes a big pavilion exhibit at the PRI Trade Show each year, and more and more attending buyers at the Show are discovering how similar the Australian and US performance racing markets are.
And if Dalla-Riva has anything to do about it, you’ll see more and more Australian aftermarket companies entering the market. He understands the parts, the value of the aftermarket to the regional economy, and he can certainly move the resources to help strengthen the export efforts of local Victorian companies.