“It was meant to be the best of the Australian automotive companies in technology and innovation, so it was a trade mission of the best of the best representing Australia,” says George Parthimos, head of Mi Media Holdings, about the trade mission that he participated in recently. In January – and after a strict selection process – a delegation of ten Australian businessmen, headed by the former premier of Victoria Steve Bracks, made its way to Detroit, the heart of the world’s automotive industry to promote Australian products. Each of the ten Australian companies was selected on the basis that their products were of the highest quality and they could stand any form of competition in both the innovative as well as the cost related front. “Of those participating there were two technology companies selected, one does battery technology for the electric car and the other was us miRoamer who are doing infotainment,” said Mr Parthimos to Neos Kosmos referring to the mix of Australian companies participating in the trade mission. His product miRoamer is an online internet media portal, in which users can access all of their favourite internet providers and customise how they access them at will. This product caught the eye of many European car companies and as he said the same has happened with the likes of Ford and General Motors since his trip to Detroit. “The big selling point, was Steve Bracks, representing the Federal government and with his connection a lot of doors opened. We walked into places that I would never be able to walk in by myself,” an amazed Mr Parthimos said. The delegations met in the world headquarters of Ford US, with the head of global procurement of Ford – the man who signs off every nut and bolt that Ford buys – one of those “priceless” moments according to Mr Parthimos, who had an insider’s look into the current developments in the automotive industry, as well as the future of the sector in Australia. The success of Mi Media Holdings Ltd, and its future aspirations, does not come with the same degree of optimism about the automotive industry in Australia and its future directions. Australia is one of 13 countries in the world that can produce a car from the design phase all the way through to presenting it in a show, even if it is in small volumes. And the truth is Australia has “got a lot of capabilities” notes Mr Parthimos. “The issue though is the market is shrinking,” he believes. So, for Australia to stay on the automotive industry map there has to be another course of action. The key area of data and communication is one of those paths that Australian companies had not explored enough while they should have. Proof of that, the fact that out of the ten companies represented in the trade mission only two were working in the area of developing data and communications products. While Mr Parthimos points out the above he adds: “If you look at the changes, automotive manufacturing in Australia is dying. I believe the government recognises that the automotive sector is declining and they need to reskill and refocus the component manufacturers and the automakers in other areas, because you can’t just compete with overseas manufacturing. That’s the reality. And with the stronger Aussie dollars that does not help. So I do not want to sound, too doom and gloom but I think if companies don’t diversify, they are going to be shutting down. Data and technology can be sold oversees a lot easier because they are not labour intensive.”