Auto industry revs up post-lockdown

Simon Tabinor and Geoff Gwilym are encouraging everyone to continue looking after their cars during lockdowns, even if they aren't travelling long distances. Pics: STEWART CHAMBERS 245172_01

By Gabriella Payne

Almost every industry has felt the impacts of Melbourne’s recurring lockdowns in some way or another and now that restrictions have eased once again, local mechanics are bracing for an influx of work after a turbulent year so far.

During Victoria’s most recent snap lockdown, people found themselves stuck at home once again and this constant change in restrictions has had a direct impact on the automotive industry, according to the CEO of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), Geoff Gwilym.

“On the repair side of things, so servicing, repairs and accident repairs, they are reliant on having a vehicle fleet moving around the suburbs which generates that work,” he explained.

“So even though a large part of the automotive industry is what they call an ‘allowable’ part of the industry, there is just not enough work that comes through [during lockdowns],” he said.

Mr Gwilym described the industry as having experienced a constant “ebb and flow” of work over the past 18 months, and now that restrictions had eased across the state, mechanics would find themselves with “a flood of work” coming through in the next few weeks.

“It’s going to be very busy because we get pent up demand and then everyone wants their car fixed by the next weekend,” Mr Gwilym said.

“There’s no point leaving it to the day that we come out of a lockdown – you won’t get in for weeks.

“So we’re appealing to the government to make sure that during lockdown periods, that people are still able to get their car regularly log book serviced.

“There are people that are still taking their family members around, they’re using that car to go to hospitals, they’re using that car to get groceries – and that car needs to be safe.” he said.

“We don’t want people driving around with lights on the dashboard of indicators in their car that suggest that they’ve got a problem with something, and they just ignore it because we’re in lockdown.”

Rapid Tune Pakenham manager, Ben Ferguson, said that the past 18 months had been a very tough time filled with “ups and downs” for them, and he shared Mr Gwilym’s sentiments.

“Yes, it’s a fact that the traffic slowed down [during the many lockdowns] and while we were getting a lot of breakdowns and repairs, we found that almost nobody serviced their cars last year,” Mr Ferguson said.

“They might not have done the kilometres, but rubber is only good for so long,” he said, adding that it was important that people kept getting their cars regularly serviced during lockdowns, as mechanics remained open during that time.

However Simon Tabinor from Pakenham’s South Eastern European specialist car service centre said that unlike others, he and the team had remained busy throughout the lockdowns and their biggest problem was actually trying to find an experienced mechanic to hire.

“We’ve been so lucky, because [the lockdowns] haven’t affected us a lot,” Mr Tabinor said.

“We were actually booked out five to six weeks in advance at one stage, which is ridiculous!

“We like to run it where you can get in within the week, but we just couldn’t do it because we had so much work,” he said.

Mr Tabinor said he was unsure whether the fact that South Eastern European was a specialist centre had anything to do with it, but he was glad to have remained busy throughout these trying times and encouraged any qualified mechanics to get in touch, as they had plenty more work on the horizon.