The days of new car production in Australia may be gone, but that hasn’t stopped some of our local engineering industry’s biggest players from further expanding their operations.

    Walkinshaw Automotive Group – the parent of the now-defunct Holden Special Vehicles – has been successfully converting American pickups from left- to right-hand drive in Melbourne since 2016, starting with Ram and later expanding to Chevrolet and Toyota.

    It has recently been able to ride the wave of soaring demand for large pickups – as well as caravans through its New Age brand – but its success has brought limitations, with its existing facilities at capacity to keep up.

    Some of that pressure may soon be alleviated, with Walkinshaw today breaking ground on a new site in Dandenong South, planned to house a 100,000 square metre factory by the end of 2025.

    According to Walkinshaw, the factory will become the new home of its remanufacturing programmes for “some of the largest automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for the Australian market”.

    The different brands will have their conversion operations handled in separate and secure areas, while the factory is also set to continue handling engineering and manufacturing for other companies.

    On site, there will be 700 car parks, dedicated office spaces, and even solar power, aligning with Walkinshaw’s aim to go carbon neutral.

    “Today is a very significant day for the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, and our ongoing commitment to the Australian manufacturing and engineering industries long-term here in Australia,” said Group director and CEO Ryan Walkinshaw.

    “Since 2018, Walkinshaw Automotive Group has seen significant growth, which meant the need for us to find a new home that met all of our unique requirements, so we are delighted to partner with [private integrated property group] Salta to make this a reality.

    “The consolidation of our manufacturing and engineering facilities will also help make us more competitive on a global scale by improving efficiencies and investing in the latest technologies.”

    At present, Walkinshaw handles left- to right-hand drive conversions for the Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Heavy Duty (HD), as well as the Toyota Tundra.

    Though the American pickup market has dropped in Australia throughout the first half of 2024 – down 11.4 per cent to 5070 deliveries – this is largely attributed to the V8-powered Ram 1500 going out of production in the US.

    Timing for its twin-turbo six-cylinder replacement is yet to be confirmed for Australia.

    With 5922 examples of the 1500 sold last year – more than half of its segment – the Ram 1500 was on the cusp of recording a top 50 sales result.

    Both the Silverado 1500 and Silverado HD have also recorded sales increases this year, while the Toyota Tundra’s 12-month, 300-example evaluation run is nearly over.

    If Toyota approves mass conversions of the Tundra to take place, Walkinshaw will continue to remanufacture the pickup in right-hand drive.

    The only full-sized American pickup it doesn’t convert locally is the Ford F-150. This is converted by Thai firm RMA Automotive, and has experienced a rocky rollout.

    Walkinshaw is also handling the right-hand drive conversion process for the upcoming GMC Yukon, an SUV sibling of the Silverado which will go on sale next year.

    It’s not known whether Walkinshaw’s Supercars team will also relocate to the facility from its traditional Clayton base, where its Ford Mustang racers are prepared.

    Jordan Mulach

    Born and raised in Canberra, Jordan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2021, being one of the most-published automotive news writers in Australia before joining CarExpert in 2024.

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