The week’s 5 best manufacturing stories, as voted by you

Last week – according to Google Analytics, anyway – our attention was turned back towards the automotive industry, with the falling dollar, a new factory and a ban on butane stoves also grabbing a lot of attention.

Below are the five most-read stories of last week.

5) Purple Line factory opening

Any factory opening or expansion is usually considered good news, and ribbon cuttings, new jobs and the benefits to a local economy all sort of give us warm, fuzzy feelings.

Last week caravan and RV accessories maker Purple Line opened a new plant in Braeside, 20-something km south-east of Melbourne’s CBD . Purple Line makes products including jacks, security systems and towing accessories.

The factory opening was another bit of good news for Melbourne, along with a factory expansion at Sync Building Systems in Brooklyn, which will lead to a reported 100 new jobs.

4) Dollar continues to head south

The Australian dollar’s fall has been welcomed by many in the industry. Last week it sunk under US 76 cents for the first time since May 2009.

The dollar has slightly recovered since, and was trading at US 76.25 cents at 9:15 am (AEDT) this morning. It’s down by about 20 per cent, trade weighted, since the highs of mid-2013.

The smart money says the Aussie could continue to plummet, especially when the US Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates again. This all comes to late for some, including local car makers. Speaking of…

3) Auto assistance backflip

Last week’s decision by the federal government to reverse its pre-election pledge to remove $500 million from the Automotive Transformation Scheme would restore “certainty” to the those in the car making game, said industry mininster Ian Macfarlane.

The cynical among us have suggested that the announcement might’ve had something to do with the possibility of Holden and Toyota quitting their Australian assembly operations earlier than 2017, which would see maybe tens of thousands of job losses in an election year.

Cynical types might also point out that an extra $900 million in assistance through the ATS (an extra $400 million is budgeted through to 2021) is actually more like $100 million in assitance, given that funding is linked to the – ever declining – number of Australian vehicles produced.

Reader Wayne was particularly unimpressed. He wrote:

“I have lost so much faith in both politicians, they are only focused on theri own jobs forgetting they are only there because we pay the leaches. Think I will go buy some acearage and annex myself from Australia, your all welcome!”

2) A little more about Ethan  

Start-up company Ethan Automotive was among those labelling the ATS reversal “cynical”.

Ethan’s not much of a fan of the ATS, as it’s not currently open to start-ups like itself. It hopes the this might be changed through amendments to the ATS the Greens want to introduce to the Senate.

Ethan has, for its part, put its hand up for $600 million in ATS assistance to get off the ground and start producing cars in 2018, according to The Australian.

Obviously, we applaud any new company wanting to have a crack at building cars in Australia and we wish Ethan the best of luck in its plans to prototype in 2017 and then crank out 12,000 cars at Edinburgh Parks – to be sold direct to the public – the year after. We also hope to speak to them later this week.

1) Butane burner ban

Sometimes we get surprised at how many people read certain stories. Last week’s brief yarn about a sales ban in NSW on portable gas cookers was a case in point, and proved to be, in fact, the most read story on this website all year.

The NSW Fair Trading has banned the saler of the burners, following the death after a severely burnt young man at Casino whose gas cooker exploded on February 2.

Nobody disputed that the death was anything other than a tragedy, but commenters at Manufacturers’ Monthly saw the ban following it as unreasonable. Reader Don wrote:

“This is one of the most ridiculous nanny state bans I can recall in a long time. There are hundreds of millions of these types of stove in use safely around the world yet all it takes is one accident and they ban them for the rest of us.”

What will be the most popular manufacturing-related stories this week? Check in next Monday and find out.



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