DETROIT - Australia may be dominated by its barren outback, but its local auto industry wants to prove the nation is not a technological wilderness.
A coalition of 135 Australian component suppliers produced the aXess, a fully drivable concept car. The project was completed without any help from Ford, Holden (GM), Toyota or Mitsubishi, Australia's four carmakers.
'We wanted to show that Australia can design and supply completely engineered and integrated technology,' says Paul Beranger of Millard Design Australia, which designed and assembled the car.
The vehicle features high-tech components from local subsidiaries of European and North American suppliers, as well as companies that have never exported parts.
Beranger estimates donor companies clocked up 140,000 man-hours on the project, which cost a total of $14 million. The Australian government provided $4 million.
The vehicle was built to take advantage of Australia's proximity to growing markets in Southeast Asia, says project coordinator David Fewchuck of the Strategic Industry Research Foundation in Melbourne.
Fewchuck says governments in Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia are still trying to develop their own domestic car industries. 'They're discovering,' he claims, 'that buying Australian engineering and technology is the most inexpensive way to do it.'