I do not think I am alone in saying that I am very happy to see the back of 2020 fast approaching

COVID hijacked just about every other aspect of our lives for the best part of the year, so I’m not going to let it hijack this column, but suffice it to say that its been an extremely tough ride for most of us.
Survey data from ACA Research shows us how well the broader automotive aftermarket has fared compared to other industries, and certainly the 4WD accessories industry has bounced back incredibly well from a relatively short period of contraction.
Short, that is, with the exception of Victoria – it is such fantastic news that they have finally now been allowed to reopen and we hope they will soon be riding the wave that is surging through the 4WD accessories industry elsewhere around the country. As this edition goes to print, South Australia has entered into a lockdown period also, and we wish our SA members a speedy recovery.
What a year it has been for me to take the reigns as Chairman. After 13 years, founding Chairman Ray Smith-Roberts made the decision to retire from his role at AM Group, and subsequently from his position as Chairman on the 4WD Industry Council.
At that time I had been a member of the Committee for two years and after an interim period with Eddie Ziada at the helm, the 4WD Industry Council held it’s bi-annual election which led to a Committee reshuffle and ultimately to my election as Chairman.
This is not a role that I take on lightly. I have witnessed many battles fought and won by the Council and by the AAAA, often times against formidable odds, and all for the future of the 4WD industry.
In stepping into the role of Chairman in Ray’s stead, it is fair to say that despite Ray’s relatively slight stature, they are very big shoes to fill indeed. It is a role I accept with pride and I look forward to serving the 4WD Industry as we continue to meet the challenges head on.
Throughout this challenging year, the Committee continued to progress a number of exciting projects, and I am pleased to report that three of these projects have finally reached fruition.
Firstly, the 2020 4WD Industry Survey conducted by ACA Research on behalf of the Council has just wrapped up, providing a long-overdue snapshot of the size and make-up of the parts and accessories market.
This data will be an invaluable resource for the AAAA and for the 4WD Industry Council in supporting advocacy efforts, as well as providing useful insights for any business operating in the 4WD industry.
The data from this survey is ‘hot off the press’, and ACA Research have compiled an article presenting some initial analysis further on in this feature edition. The full report will be available exclusively to 4WD Industry members shortly.
Secondly, following the introduction of new mandatory labelling requirements for recovery straps late in 2019, the Committee began working on consumer-facing guidelines aiming to provide clarity around safe use of the devices.
A great deal of thought has gone into the design of the guidelines, and I am proud to announce that early in 2021 the safe use guidelines will be available for members to use in the retail showrooms or any customer-facing area of the business.
The guidelines consist of a small brochure with image examples of the ‘dos and don’ts’ of recovery set-up. The brochure will urge customers to scan a QR code which will open the full and comprehensive safe use guideline document which provides a detailed overview of the accepted industry practice for setting up recoveries, attachment of the recovery strap, and execution of the recovery.
Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, 2021 will see the launch of a pilot program for a 4WD Technical Training package.
For many years, the 4WD accessories industry has been calling for a training package that meets their needs.
Existing training packages focused too heavily on areas such as mechanical diagnosis and repair, lacked 4WD-specific content, and were prohibitively onerous and impractical for businesses in the 4WD accessory fitting space.
Working with the Kangan Institute in Melbourne, the Committee has developed a Certificate II training package that will deliver a qualification representing the base skills required to work in an accessories fitting environment.
The pilot program will run in Melbourne only with a group of pre-selected students, and will help us assess any areas that need adjusting before launching the training package to the market, all things going well, later in 2021.
One final update; discussions with state regulators on the development of a GCM re-rating code were stalled due to the Queensland state election, however this is still high on our agenda and we will be progressing these discussions as soon as the dust settles, so we would hope to have some news to share on this also early in the new year.
In the meantime, stay safe, and bring on 2021!

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.