David Vinsen, chief executive of the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association (VIA), and David Crawford, chief executive officer of the Motor Industry Association (MIA), agreed to speak to Autofile Online about the two organisations signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
David Vinsen, chief executive of the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association (VIA).
AUTOFILE: How did the MoU come about?
DAVID VINSEN: There has been a long history – dating back early as 2004 – in which the two associations have worked together on specific issues. This arose from a non-formal arrangement which worked well with Perry Kerr, the MIA’s first chief executive officer, and me collaborating on a number of issues. This included preparing joint submissions, appearing together before parliamentary select committees and so on. When Perry retired, and David Crawford assumed the role, the relationship continued and grew. As David says, we recognised we had more in common than we did differences, and when we worked together we had greater success. The idea of formalising the relationship had been discussed for some time. When it was raised again recently, our board instructed me to pursue the idea.
DAVID CRAWFORD: The MoU was a matter discussed with me and the MIA president between our May and September council meetings. It arose from observations I had previously made to the MIA’s council that we had more success with issues when there was a collective industry view. Conversely, it’s easier for ministers and officials to play one organisation off against another if we take different views to them on the same policy issue.
The question was should we form a wider group or focus our initial collective efforts with the VIA as our members are both in the business of importing vehicles. The VIA and MIA have worked on several issues jointly in recent times. As we look forward, there are more issues that we will need to do the same on. With this background, we decided to see how this works out. If the basis of our co-operation develops into a stable a strong platform, then it’s likely we will add other like-minded organisations to it. The idea was put forward to form a relationship where we have similar views on issues so collectively they can be presented to government at all levels. The MIA president raised the idea of working together at our September council meeting following which the MIA asked to meet with the VIA to put the proposal in its broadest sense to them. The meeting was between the VIA and MIA presidents and chief executives. At the end, they tasked the two CEOs to make it happen.
David Crawford, chief executive officer of the MIA
AUTOFILE: Why have you decided to go ahead with it?
CRAWFORD: Importantly, each organisation will still hold different views on some matters and the MoU is clear on the right and need to do that. However, on issues we have the same views it was opportune to form the relationship at the same time as a new government forms post an election.
VINSEN: Both of our organisations have matured. We accept that it’s better to work together and speak with one voice on issues of common interest while still retaining the right to advocate for our individual policies when we differ.
AUTOFILE: What has been the level of support among your membership for the MoU been like?
VINSEN: The support has been good. Going back to 2004, we had support for the idea of working together. Prior to entering into the MoU, we canvassed some key, long-standing members and sought their opinions. Since the announcement of the MoU, we have received nothing but support and encouragement for the initiative from members, other organisations and government departments.
CRAWFORD: The MoU is centred around the importation of light vehicles. There has not yet been an opportunity to discuss the proposal with the MIA’s heavy vehicle group or motorcycle group. For light vehicles, there is a willingness among distributors to give this a go.
AUTOFILE: Has there been any opposition from members?
CRAWFORD: In recent years, opposition between the MIA and VIA has been on issues and their respective policy positions. I expect, and the MoU explicitly provides for, different views on specific issues and this will also be reflected at a membership level. To date, the feedback has been positive.
VINSEN: There has been no opposition. It seems that members understand the “real politik” of the situation. Some have expressed reservations on a “we’ll see how it goes” basis.
AUTOFILE: The two associations have not been at “loggerheads” so much in recent years. Why’s that?
CRAWFORD: I cannot speak for what the situation was before me, but my approach has always been at an issue level. My view is to judge the stance taken on each issue. If the MIA believes the VIA, or any other organisation for that matter, is taking purely a self-interested centric view on a matter that’s not good for our members or the wider industry, then we will speak out against that. We expect the same goes for any views we might take on an issue too. The MoU provides for differences of views. In discussing the MIA’s or VIA’s views over my time with the MIA, I have put it to the VIA – and other organisations – that the health of any relationship is the ability to agree to disagree and know why. We have slowly been working away at developing a conversation where not only can we agree, but also disagree giving each room to do so.
VINSEN: The VIA is in agreement with the MIA on that.
AUTOFILE: Can you give some recent important examples of how the MIA and VIA have worked successfully for the industry?
VINSEN: Historically, we collaborated on issues such as vehicle year and greenhouse gas regulations, among others. More recently, we have collaborated on ACC safety ratings, electric vehicles (EVs), end-of-life tyres and other pan-industry issues.
CRAWFORD: When ACC started to consult on vehicle risk-rating, for example, the MIA recognised straight away that this had implications for importers and car owners. We approached the AA and Motor Trade Association (MTA), and then the VIA, so we could collectively take a position to ACC on what we wanted to see happen.
This joined-up industry view meant we obtained a much better system that we would have otherwise have reached. Vehicle risk-rating is still not perfect, but it had all the hallmarks of being a total farce if it were not for industry’s ability to work together on it. Currently, the MIA and VIA are working on improving the recall system for new and used vehicles. The gap in the process is once a recall has been announced distributors of new vehicles generally do not cover recalls from that point on for used imports as under New Zealand law that company importing the vehicle is considered the manufacturer for recall purposes. We are looking at the responsibilities of importers of used vehicles once a recall has been announced. The VIA is developing a code of practice to cover these responsibilities that sits alongside the two codes the MIA has – for new vehicles and used imports up to the point a recall is initiated in the source market.
AUTOFILE: What are the advantages of the MoU to both associations and the wider industry? What do you hope to achieve from it going forward?
VINSEN: There will be a number of benefits to the MIA, VIA and wider industry. These include the strength of presenting a combined approach to issues, government only having to deal with one voice on most issues, and the pooling of resources for research, preparing submissions and so on.
AUTOFILE: What sort of issues are you likely to work on in the future and present a unified voice on?
CRAWFORD: Main areas of interest at the moment centre around EVs, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), recalls, data sharing, port issues and vehicle standards.
The two associations will maintain a shortlist of areas of mutual interest. This will be reviewed every six months to ensure these remain topical and we both have common shared interests on each of them.
AUTOFILE: On the flipside, there may be disagreements. What areas do you expect these to be in and how will you deal with them when they arise?
VINSEN: The strength of any relationship is based on how differences are dealt with. In the case of the MoU, there are three mechanisms for dealing with them when they arise. They are the identification of issues on which we have different views, the retention of the right for each association to advocate for its individual policy positions, and the “no surprises” policy.
CRAWFORD: The MoU provides for each organisation the freedom to have different policies or positions and advocate on those. We will operate the no-surprises policy so decisions, announcements and advocacy action on contentious issues is communicated with the other association in advance.
AUTOFILE: Onto specifics in the MoU. The MIA and VIA will collaborate “with the aim of presenting a united voice for the industry”. How will that work?
CRAWFORD & VINSEN: We will have advice and media releases on a joint letterhead. In the fullness of time, it may be appropriate to form a virtual organisation with its own logo where the virtual organisation members are the MIA and VIA, or other like-minded organisations on specific issues.
AUTOFILE: When you have different policies or positions, how will you deal with situations that put the MIA and VIA up against each other?
VINSEN & CRAWFORD: If it becomes necessary to take different positions, then while the MoU is in operation each organisation will advocate its views and explain in a professional manner why we have taken the position we have. It will be okay for the VIA or MIA to say we are disappointed in the views of the other association, but these should stop short of being dismissive and condescending.
AUTOFILE: Could there be occasions when the no-surprises policy plays into the other’s hands or damages the other’s position?
VINSEN: Both parties have entered into the MoU in a spirit of good faith, and I do not expect either organisation to attempt to use it to gain an unfair advantage.
CRAWFORD: Like many of your questions, given the newness of the MoU we have yet to complete discussions on some of the practicalities, including this one.
AUTOFILE: What situations do you foresee when you may co-opt other associations? Will your MoU marginalise others?
CRAWFORD: There is no intent to marginalise other associations. Our intent is the exact opposite. Issues that go beyond the importing of vehicles is where we will seek input from others. As previously noted, ACC’s vehicle risk-rating was an issue that involved the AA and MTA in addition to the MIA and VIA.
VINSEN: With regard to marginalising other organisations, I think the contrary will be the case. Organisations working in the transport sector already co-operate well together. But sometimes others may have felt they had to be a bit “guarded” around the MIA-VIA relationship – for example, not wanting to be seen to be “taking sides”. This will no longer be the case. The collaboration on ACC’s safety ratings was a classic case of a number of organisations working productively and effectively together.
AUTOFILE: The MIA and VIA will consider establishing a “virtual organisation” to speak on behalf of both. What does that mean? May a merger may be on the cards?
CRAWFORD: There is no merger on the horizon. In a previous life during the 1990s, I worked for the petroleum exploration and production association. This association was also involved in a group that called itself the Natural Resource Users Group (NRUG). It had about 15 member organisations that came together on specific issues to arrive at a joint position to take to government. At one stage, the NRUG represented about 82 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP. It had collective weight of numbers that our individual associations did not have. The NRUG had no office, no staff and no budget, just a logo. It was a virtual organisation.
I envisage that a similar concept may be appropriate at some point between, for example, the MIA, VIA, MTA, AA and others. If so, we will take the proposal to them and see if it’s something that collectively makes sense. It might not. It may be enough just to have multiple logos on one letterhead. The proposal has only been raised as a concept at this stage and hasn’t been discussed outside of the MIA’s and VIA’s MoU framework.
VINSEN: I agree with what David’s saying on this matter.
AUTOFILE: In the MoU, you give examples of common interests. What do you want to achieve by working together on them? What areas have you worked on in the past and to what success?
CRAWFORD: Let us use recalls as an example. It has been difficult to gain traction with the NZTA on the development of an end-to-end process for the management of safety recalls. When we discuss recalls for used imported vehicles, the agency says it will need to discuss the points the MIA is making with the VIA.
If the MIA doesn’t keep the NZTA “honest”, then more often than not the timely follow-up of issues we raise does not eventuate. My view is that it’s better for the MIA and VIA to sit around the table with the agency so all parties are involved in discussions at the same time. It’s more efficient and helpful to all parties.
VINSEN: The two associations are in agreement on this. It’s much better for the VIA and MIA to sit around the table with the likes of the NZTA.
AUTOFILE: On the flipside, can you give areas that aren’t of common interest and why?
VINSEN: The only area where we currently have real differences is in the timing of the implementation of new regulations. For example, I understand that the MIA wants a “level playing field” with all vehicles, new or used, being subject to the new regulations at the same time. However, the VIA wants the implementation of any new legislation, standards and so on to be phased so that we continue to have access to sufficient numbers of used vehicles from our source markets to be able to continue to supply New Zealand’s market demands.
I am sure there may be other areas of difference that occur from time to time, but the mechanisms in the MoU will provide us with ways to deal with these as and when they occur.
AUTOFILE: How hard will the MIA and VIA have to work to make this MoU a success? What are the repercussions of this failing?
CRAWFORD: Each association is approaching this in good faith.
VINSEN: I agree and, further to that, the VIA doesn’t do anything by halves. We have entered into this agreement after about 14 years of informal collaboration with the MIA. We’ve thought about it a lot and we’re not going to be approaching this half-heartedly.
AUTOFILE: Any final message to the industry?
VINSEN: This agreement is an indication of the increasing maturity of our industry and the organisations that represent it. Increasingly, the issues that affect us – such as EVs and ITS – will be of common interest. They will require new levels of analysis, thinking and advocacy to ensure the best outcome for New Zealand and the transport sector. We don’t see the MoU as a dramatic “step change” in our working relationship. Rather, it’s a natural and logical extension of how we already operate.