Despite Australia’s vehicle manufacturing plants shutting down over the next two years, our auto industry looks to be thriving in design and technology.
General Motors today showed off their new smart car service, Commercial Link, which will allow car owners to check on their vehicle diagnostic in real time through their phone.
For a $10 per month subscription fee, Commercial Link will give drivers instant feedback on their car’s fuel consumption, battery life, location, driver behaviour and speed.
It’s expected to be rolled out in nearly all of the 3.4 million cars GM produces for the US market annually. And the technology behind it all was made by Melbourne auto software company Connexion Media.
“Our partnership with GM represents one of the largest automotive software deals in recent Australian history,” Connexion Media CEO George Parthimos told Business Insider.
Internet connected cars are expected to become the norm in the next 10 years, with all new cars on the market set to be hooked up by 2025. General Motors already has 1 million cars on the road with built-in wireless internet technology.
With manufacturing plants closing soon, that auto-technology market is one in which Australian companies will be looking to capitalise.
“Effectively we’re transitioning from a manufacturing ecosystem to a technology ecosystem. That means we’re trying to future-proof the industry by working on software and services for the next generation of cars,” Parthimos said.
“Our goal is to set up Melbourne as one of the key centres for excellence for connected car software service and delivery globally.”
But while developing intuitive, original technology for cars is a major part of their success, the biggest challenge for both Connexion and other Australian companies is actually gaining the trust of the big auto companies.
Local companies have had to spend huge amounts of time trying to build relationships with the likes of General Motors Holden before they are even able to pitch.
“It took us six years, from the first introduction to General Motors to the actual product launch of Commercial Link,” Parthimos said.
“The big automakers’ product road maps are typically planned out seven to 10 years in advance, so you’ve really got to have something they’re looking for.”
“Then you’ve got to have a way to introduce yourself to the right person, in the right department, in the right location, who’s actually going to make the decision.”
“Automotive is highly conservative. It’s a highly conservative industry. They typically avoid dealing with start-ups or early stage businesses and prefer to deal with established companies with the backing behind them to deliver.
“You have to build trust and you have to build a reputation.”
It’s not just our technology sector that’s thriving in the auto world either. One of the most well received cars at CES, the Chevrolet Bolt, was mostly designed in Holden’s Port Melbourne studio.
The electric car, which was originally shown off in concept form in Detroit last year, was completely designed by Richard Ferlazzo and his team in Australia, with the production version unveiled in Las Vegas showing very minimal changes.
General Motors’ second attempt at an electric car has come with much excitement due to its range of over 320km and a low price tag of $US37,500, or $3000 after government incentives.
That makes it around $US60,000 cheaper than the Tesla Model S, the only other all-electric car on the market with a similar amount of driving range.
At this stage, despite having most of its design completed in Australia, the Bolt will only be built in left-hand drive, meaning Australia will miss out.
However, GM’s president of North American operations told Motoring.com.au that the architecture that underpins the Bolt is extremely flexible, so there is a very real possibility that it could eventually be built for RHD markets such as Australia and the UK.
Holden’s last electric car for the Australian market was the Volt, which was a huge flop priced at $60,000. If the Bolt was to succeed in Australia, it would need to be priced much more aggressively.