Amidst a string of snap lockdowns, the year has begun with a fervour that is showing no signs of slowing down

Spurred on by the continuation of international travel restrictions, the 4WD accessory economy has continued to grow – in fact, it is absolutely pumping – not bad for an industry which, according to the 2020 4WD Industry Survey, is already valued at six billion dollars!
Since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted Australia, the 4WD Industry began experiencing an unprecedented and sustained upswing – it is indeed a very busy time to be a player in this game.
It has also been one of the busiest times for our committee, with a number of other long-term projects recently coming to a head.

Recovery Strap Guidelines
With the release of new mandatory standard and labelling requirements for Recovery Straps, the committee saw a need for a consumer-friendly guideline to assist members in the retail space.
What seemed initially like a relatively simple task became more and more involved as the committee and other members fine-tuned the information and images included to make sure the guideline had the best impact.
The end result is a two-part guideline document – a DL sized brochure with images that clearly identify the do’s and don’ts of recovery strap attachment and a QR code that opens a digital document that outlines not only greater detail and extrapolation of the mandatory standard, but also provides guidance on setting up and carrying out a safe vehicle recovery and maintenance of recovery equipment. The digital versions of both documents are available for download now on the 4WD Industry Council website.

4WD Industry Survey
The 4WD accessories industry had been steadily growing for many years, bolstered by the continued popularity of 4WD and dual cab utility vehicles, however the exact size of the industry itself was unknown as the most recent survey data dated back to 2008.
We felt it was important for the industry to have a visible snapshot of not only the value of the sector in terms of its revenue, but also in terms of its employment and impacts on manufacturing and export activity.
As such, the AAAA, with support from the 4WD Industry Council, worked with ACA Research to capture these insights in the 2020 4WD Industry Study.
I indicated earlier in this piece that the accessories market was valued at six billion dollars, and it is important to note that we employ more than 70,000 staff and are a major supporter of Australian manufacturing and design.
The data collected from this study is useful from a commercial point of view and also from an advocacy point of view, as it will assist the AAAA in lobbying the Government for better support for our sector. The research report is available for members to download from the AAAA website.

Shows recommence
2021 has shown us that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same and one thing our industry loves to do is get together.
Much to the industry’s delight, we saw the recommencement of major 4WD shows for the first time since 2019, with Brisbane’s RNA Showgrounds hosting the National 4×4 Outdoors Show recently.
Inclement weather could not dampen the spirits of the swarms of visitors, and exhibitors could not have been happier with the event.
On the opening morning, the 4WD Industry Council hosted our regular networking breakfast with an at-capacity attendance.
Andrew Mahon of Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads was a welcome guest speaker at this breakfast and acknowledged the enormous contribution of the 4WD industry from both a cultural and economic perspective while reconfirming the Department’s commitment to open and respectful dialogue with our industry.
4WD Industry Council Convenor, Nigel Bishop, and AAAA Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, Lesley Yates, then presented an exclusive preview of the 2020 4WD Industry Study report, which was released one week later to the broader membership.
Despite the engaging content, I have to say, the highlight of the morning for me was simply the energy in the room. There was a palpable joy emanating from the group of 70 industry peers finally getting back to networking together – face to face – and I know our colleagues in other states will be looking forward to connecting once again at the 4WD IC networking functions as they roll out across the country throughout the year.

4WD Accessories Technician Training Course
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the committee was proud to recently launch the pilot program for the 4WD Accessories Technician Training Course, developed in partnership with Melbourne’s Kangan Institute.
This course provides a much-needed ‘stepping stone’ along the training pathway for the 4WD accessories industry – a pathway we have been seeking for many years.
The inaugural program is kicking off with a small group of Melbourne-based students in June 2020, with students attending one day per week for 28 weeks before attending two supplementary ‘industry sessions’ where they will receive additional training from industry leaders on key 4WD products.
The program was officially launched at the AAAA head office with AAAA’s Stuart Charity, Kangan Institute’s Aaron Woods, and myself presenting to a full room of AAAA members who are as proud as we are to see this program get up and running.

A fantastic year ahead
It is clear that 2021 is shaping up to be a year of growth for our fantastic industry. Not only in terms of sales (keep ‘em coming!), but in terms of future sustainability and growing opportunity for the next generation of 4WD enthusiasts to turn their passion into a rewarding career.
I have never been more proud to be a part of this diverse and energetic industry and I look forward to what I am sure will be another ground-breaking year ahead.

Ben Lavis, Chairman Australian 4WD Industry Council The Australian 4WD Industry Council is a non-competitive, specialist council of the AAAA. It has been formed to provide advice, understanding and a strategic approach to market issues from regulators, governments, 4WD enthusiasts and community groups. www.4wdcouncil.com.au