This opinion piece was penned by SIVANZ Head Honcho Andrew Ferrier-Kerr and had a prominent place in the most recent NZ Hot Rod Magazine (September 2020)
The June/ July issues of NZHRM were interesting in their content around the LVV certification process, and the readers’ responses and commentary. In the August issue, there was the quote (p. 7) from a reader about accountability (I’ve piggybacked on that quote later in this opinion piece) and a letter from a former hot rodder about the dearth of hot rodding due to a number of factors. It seems that we have an issue or two to address and if we are to have a future, we need to embrace the challenges, confront the sticky bits and identify solutions.
As SIV owners, we have so much to lose. Unless we start putting some effort into a comprehensive and robust plan to keep our cars on the road, my fear is that we will become just like that “dirty” oilman on the drive electric advertisement on TV – isolated and on the edge of extinction. Many of the topics raised by organisations or people in the June, July or August issues of the magazine as discussion and/or reader feedback are by association related; hence, affecting every SIV owner in some way.
The views in this opinion piece are mine, but I acknowledge how difficult it is to separate a personal view from the SIVANZ direction and drive to keep our member’s cars on the road. It is passion which drives the SIVANZ team we will continue to speak out. It is important for us all to have opinions because they will start a wider conversation about what the solutions may be. A few of my comments may be perceived as controversial and confronting, but my hope is that SIV owners will think and talk about the wider issues of the SIV environment and take the necessary actions. The talking bit will be easy but moving out of a comfort zone to do something differently will take a little bit of courage. We are all passionate about our cars, clubs, and associations. Any negative comment or perceived threat can evoke an instant emotive reaction to defend and protect. Even with an awareness of that emotional attachment, I think a lot of SIV owners deep down recognise the current SIV environment is faltering and some might argue, is stagnant.
Every SIV related club, organisation or individual SIV owners (who are not in a club or other organised group) are facing a rapidly changing environment. While the latter group may think they are immune to what is happening around the SIV fraternity because of their independence and thinking that it’s a club(s) issue, the reality is that without belonging to a national support organisation they are more exposed to the negative impact on SIVs than any other group. Rather than standing alone, we must stand beside like-minded people with a common cause. That is how we will keep our cars on the road today but also be in a position to wrestle with the mechanics of how to maintain that right into the future.
I liken our situation to standing in the middle of a tornado with the air swirling around us at tremendous speed. For us, the air is swirling with rules, laws, organisation(s), LVVTA, NZHRA, clubs, individuals, government policies and proposals, and opinions (positive and negative), including those from groups who want the aged fleet off the roads. All of that spinning mass has created a noise so loud that we can’t actually hear anything that makes sense anymore – we don’t know which direction to go in. We’re both hypnotised and paralysed, and too afraid to do anything or upset anybody. We think that if we all stand really still, we’ll be okay.
My view is that we need to start collaborating to counter the spinning mess around us and break out – a kind of escape plan. Collaboration may well be the key to stop one or all of us being ‘sucked out’ into the unknown, and most importantly keep SIVs on the road and organisations intact. This is possible, but our collective track record of working together across organisations, club or car types hasn’t been particularly productive up to now, so perhaps I’m being overly optimistic. What I do think is that something is going to give sooner rather than later, and it likely won’t be pleasant. LVVTA, for instance, is one of those organisations spinning around us and the comments in the June/July issues of NZHRM (LVVTA has in fact featured often in public forums over the last few years) have added to the noise in our world.
Every individual or organisation has choices regarding how they behave and how they interact with other people, clubs or organisations. The simple diagram from a reader in the August issue explained it well: you either operate above the line or below the line. It is ultimately about behaviour and culture – both individual and organisational.
Responsible & Accountable
Lay Blame & Justify
Various commentators suggest that LVVTA’s management of the certification processes/organisation isn’t great. It is important to note that these sentiments haven’t stemmed just from the last few months. What isn’t currently available are the commentaries from those people who have had good experiences with the certification process, although I know they exist. It is difficult, though, to have a balanced discussion in the absence of both sides of the story. Having said that, I don’t recall reading many positive feedback responses about the certification process nor about LVVTA shared in a public forum. Perhaps it is merely that LVVTA needs to tell a better story. If, however, the current state of affairs is genuine, then we clearly can’t let it continue. We have at least $3.5Bn of value in our SIVs parked in our garages, and SIVANZ has estimated a further $5Bn+ in economic value derived from SIV businesses. It may sound crass, but the money-go-round calculated from SIV value, SIV businesses, private SIV event owners, and even money raised for charities through SIV events equates to significant money.
LVVTA provides a fundamental SIV platform from which we get to enjoy our cars, businesses and events translating into a positive dollar value across the board for all of us. I think we should be concerned that none of the current eight member clubs (my recollection is that LVVTA started with ten clubs), LVVTA President, LVVTA Board of Management, Certifiers nor NZTA has ever made any comment on the negative feedback we seem to hear a lot of. These are the stakeholders who have decided to be guardians of the system. Note though that the certification process described in NZHRM and subsequent LVVTA responses are a ‘business as usual’ operational matter, so anyone else in the LVVTA organisation doesn’t necessarily have to respond. My understanding is that their job is to govern and develop strategies for growth and stability, not get involved with operational matters. That said, if what we’re discussing here is an organisation that is performing poorly then the LVVTA board and other stakeholders must ‘get into’ the conversation and tell us how real improvements will be made. Alternatively, they could say to us that everything is actually okay and work to demonstrate that.
Concerningly, the discussion is becoming repetitive, which of itself makes it important enough that we should consider formally asking each of those stakeholder organisations for their opinions and what changes they think need to occur. Or are they content with the operation as is? One of the responses from LVVTA in the July issue mentioned that they are audited by NZTA. I, for one, would be interested in reading the results of those audits.
Some LVVTA member clubs receive multi-million dollar annual revenues from membership fees and other incomes. Their revenue streams aren’t necessarily related to LVVTA or the certification process, nevertheless, I would have expected the member clubs to have a strong interest in making sure everything is working as intended in order for their members to benefit from a painless and enjoyable process, and therefore maintain a healthy membership revenue stream. But perhaps the other member club SIV types and certification rules are significantly different from ours, and it is only hot rodders and other specialist SIV (car) owners who are having difficulties with the process. If that is the case, then the silence is understandable; if nothing is wrong, there is nothing to say.
LVVTA has six mission statements on its web site. I believe the following three best represent our specific interests as they relate to the ongoing discussions and the views articulated in this piece:
A question which arises for me is, are LVVTA operating at a level which delivers on these statements? One or two readers recently commented on how LVVTA saved and continues to protect hot rodding in New Zealand. Thirty years ago what Tony Johnson and NZHRA did was extraordinary. What has happened since is what we are talking about today. But is it LVVTA’s role to save hot rodding or other SIV categories? I don’t think the mission statements support that notion nor do I think that it is LVVTA’s role to ‘save’ hot rodding or other SIVs. That’s your job, my job and the car guy down the road. Simplistically, LVVTA designs and manages to a set of standards and a process. Yes, it’s an important one which we benefit from, but it’s effectively no more than that. Saving hot rodding is not their job, and maybe that’s part of our confusion – we’re not clear on the role that LVVTA has today.
I’m not aware that LVVTA has made any submissions to government organisations in support of SIV owners or against government proposals impacting SIV owners and keeping SIV’s on the road. If they have, I would certainly like to read a copy of those submissions. If one of the LVVTA goals was to save hot rodding and other SIV groups, I would expect to observe a high level of action and communication with us all. An ‘aside’ question which arises is this; if LVVTA was, in fact, the group saving hot rodding, what is NZHRA’s role? What is their contribution to protecting hot rodding? To be fair, the more groups engaged in protecting and advocating for SIV owners the better but I would hope there is some coordination of effort between LVVTA and a member club.
In the July issue, Paul Grace commented in regards to LVVTA “……..led me to believe some professionals involved in the industry are clearly operating under a “culture of fear” (real or perceived) and don’t want to risk jeopardising future work …” If we go back to the diagram above; people are either operating above or below the line. Operating above the line gets much better results over a much longer period of time. To be a high performing organisation, intelligent documentation and operating procedures, good recruitment decisions and solid leadership are needed. Good leadership not only sets the values and culture of the organisation, it creates a healthy culture which enables an organisation to capitalise on all the individual skill sets, capabilities and potential employed by that organisation.
Repeating discussions about LVVTA have focussed on frustrations with the rules and the process. Are these indicating that we simply don’t understand them or is there is an issue within LVVTA (accepting we’ve probably only heard the bad news stories) which the LVVTA board may need to address? If this was a private organisation and customer feedback was constantly negative and aired in public forums the way LVVTA performance has been and is, someone on the board should be saying, ‘we need to change the people, or we need to change the people.’ Leadership from senior LVVTA personnel about now is therefore key. We know of their joint capabilities and the strengths they bring to the table. I suggest that self-reflection and genuine internal challenge may uncover some real change opportunities for LVVTA, and the next steps will become obvious and authentic.
Coincidentally, to help us better understand the SIVMAS (Special Interest Vehicle Manufacturers and Suppliers) group, we sent out an industry survey in 2019 and recently a Post COVID-19 version to just under 500 SIV related business. To date, we haven’t compiled the responses in preparation for publication; however, in one survey section, we asked what needs to happen to make the SIV industry sector “Fit For Future”. I was surprised at the number of comments which specifically referenced LVVTA and the need for organisational change; and secondly, to develop and maintain rules which better reflect vehicle manufacturing standards at the time of manufacture. I’m not sure if that is possible or wise in every case, nevertheless, that’s what our business people are saying. They seem to be looking for a system which offers better support to them and their customers. Having certified cars on the road means SIV businesses can sell more product or services. Specialist insurance companies are an example of a service which directly benefits from the SIV being certified and road legal. Moreover, a certified SIV commands a higher resale value.
LVVTA being a monopoly, doesn’t help of course. It’s far too easy to get complacent when you’re the only business in town. Monopolies have a reputation for being heavy-handed, bureaucratic and dismissive of customers, but the fact is, we are LVVTA’s customers. There appears to be an imbalance of power in the relationship – maybe we need more competition in the certification business? To be blunt, if the situation doesn’t improve and it all falls over LVVTA has nothing whatsoever to lose whereas SIV owners and SIV businesses have everything to lose, especially when we add up our investments in cars and businesses.
I took the editorial on the Outlaw discussion (referenced by Paul Grace in the NZHRM July issue) as SIV owners opting out of the certification process presumably because of the degree of difficulty.
We need the process to be work because we’ve all been through too much change and angst to believe that reverting to lawlessness would be good for us. We know that NZTA/Government won’t tolerate non-certified modified vehicles on the road; therefore we have a collective, urgent need to uncover the reasons why those not complying choose not to engage with the certification process. From my perspective, there are three main reasons we need to understand this situation:
1. Outlaws will get caught, and that will force the rest us into an unpleasant discussion with NZTA again (30 years on) about why our vehicles should be allowed on the roads.
a. Potentially, outlaws will create an opportunity for NZTA/ the government to remove more of the aged fleet from NZ roads (climate change, emissions and safety-driven initiatives) and,
b. Remove an aberration from road transport law at the same time.
2. If any part of #1 is remotely true, the outlaws have just shaved most of the $3.5Bn value off our cars, and every other SIV type. Some of you with retirement funds tied up in your cars should think about this carefully.
3. Again, if any part of #1 is remotely true then the outlaws have shaved $5Bn off the SIV business economic value to NZ, and, likely caused the closure of a number of SIV businesses and put an estimated 15,000 people out of a job.
As an LVVTA founding member club, I am also surprised at the silence from NZHRA around the frustrations with the cert process and impact on their members as they were instrumental in getting certification up and running. However, given the list of challenges facing NZHRA today, it’s forgivable that the LVVTA discussion is lost among the other issues. NZHRA has some work to do, but it’s all doable with clarity of purpose, desire and prioritisation. The reality is that SIV owners need every national organisation engaged and Fit For Purpose.
I know that NZHRA is aware of the 103 proposed changes to the Incorporated Societies Act, but I’ll mention two of them as I think they may have a bearing on how clubs start to think about their operational futures. One of the proposed changes is that executive officers of an incorporated society will be treated akin to a company director. This new layer of personal liability may prevent some people from being involved at a club executive level or cause clubs to think about what personal protections (insurance?) need to be added for those involved at that executive level. Hosting car events, including those for charity fundraising, will likely need more structure which protects the people and club involved. It may also prevent talented leaders from taking up an executive position in a club.
The second interesting proposed changes are around how club funds and assets are to be treated at the time of wind up or dissolution. These seem tighter than the current rules.
Why is it important to be aware of the latter point? Because hot rod and most other SIV clubs are not attracting enough new, young members and winding up a club may be the only option for some. There is no escaping the fact that a lot of club memberships are aging and leaving clubs through age/ health or worse. The ones which are still involved aren’t as energetic as they once were, so lethargy and apathy within clubs is common. That doesn’t make a club very attractive to a potential new young member.
Interestingly, in the August issue Whakatane R&CC had a pic of a younger executive team AND mostly women so I think they’re in really good shape for the future. In the same NZHRM issue Whitestone Rodders also mentioned a couple of young ones in their team and Hamilton Hot Rod Club has actively encouraged young guys onto the executive team, and they are doing great things as well. I’m sure there are other clubs which have some younger members but are the numbers of new members joining clubs equal to or greater than the rate of those who are leaving?
A significant downside to a falling membership is the challenge of what to do with the club cash and asset base when the inevitable happens. Before you all throw your hands into the air and say “that can never happen….” some clubs in the country are talking about the dissolution of their clubs now. They have to be given credit for being mature enough to plot their membership trajectory, acknowledge the inevitable and plan for it.
Those who are talking about the possibility of closing down their club are taking control over how and when it happens. This mature and responsible approach will enable their club to wind up with dignity.
As I said earlier on, the money generated by SIV related activities is big, and as a result, there are some very wealthy car clubs in the country, including hot rod clubs. So, what to do with the money? An option is that NZHRA or other SIV clubs could be the beneficiaries of that bequeath. But think about that, there are very few clubs who are NOT in the same position of having an aging membership and not enough new members coming in. So the discussion should be around how do we get more people engaged with SIV clubs and national organisations and grow our club memberships.
One of the other proposed changes to the Inc Societies Act is a reduction in required society member numbers from 15 to 10. So that means clubs can remain an Inc society for longer as the roll drops. But that doesn’t address why clubs are not attracting enough new young members; it just delays the inevitable.
Part of Greg Stokes’ letter in the July issue talked about the possibility of a joint SIVANZ/ NZHRA/ LVVTA youth or apprenticeship programme. What Greg couldn’t have known when he wrote that letter is that SIVANZ had already had two conversations on this very topic in 2017 with MITO. SIVANZ also met with two Heads of Departments (technical training) from high schools to test our thoughts and their responses on the potential of automotive (SIV) based initiatives for students who could lead into formal training provided by a SIVANZ programme. Our sons and daughters who have an interest in SIV related trades, qualifications or support businesses, deserve the best opportunities we can present. Recently an ANZ economist stated that the under 30 age group will be the most affected by Post Covid-19 economic impacts (read job losses) in the coming months. Nearly three years on, we consider that our initial thoughts and ideas about supporting our youth to become engaged with automotive-based training remain relevant. Greg mentioned LVVTA and NZHRA in his letter as possible collaborators with SIVANZ in a youth programme. In my opinion, neither organisation is ready for that type of next-generation (no pun intended) planning. Also, it is likely that LVVTA would be a “customer” of an SIV educational program as opposed to a contributor or perhaps they could be both? LVVTA staff and Certifiers (who also have employees) may benefit, for example, from an SIV designed Unit Standard on Coaching and Mentoring. LVVTA could contribute to an SIV Unit Standard on LVV Certification 101. The more people who understand the rules and process, the better off the certification process becomes. While this is not the forum to share details, we have a goal to develop a training and education program to retain SIV based skillsets and knowledge in conjunction with students’ wider qualification content. Both NZHRA and LVVTA would need to undergo some quite big internal changes before they had the headspace to participate effectively in a joint venture. I get a sense that LVVTA has an appreciation it needs to change. It has good structure and capability to do it; it just needs the desire to start and stamina to see it through.
For any youth support program to be effective, the support of SIV businesses is critical. The Special Interest Vehicle Manufacturers and Suppliers group (SIVMAS) is just one of our ideas to promote a healthy and significant industry group. We think a structure similar to the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) organisation in the USA (but with a NZ ‘flavour’) offers real opportunities. The SIVMAS goal is to form an SIV industry mass strong enough to set its own direction and become a recognised industry group. When we achieve a strong SIVMAS group, we would like to talk with other automotive groups and develop plans to get our sons and daughters into SIV related training and education. Our confidence level in other SIV national groups to talk about this with any degree of seriousness and sustainability is currently low. To this point, three months ago, we reached out to a national car organisation seeking their support to collaborate on a small SIVMAS initiative.
To date, we haven’t had any acknowledgment. Additionally, SIVMAS would like to talk with the government about the importance and relevance of the sector and collaborate on how we are going to co-exist. Whatever the approaches are that we choose to take, we must develop relationships which allow us to keep our cars on the road. This, in turn, enables a strong industry group. Currently, a range of other business sectors are still enjoying significant government financial support post-COVID-19. Some sectors produce a lot less in economic value to NZ yet are still recipients of government cash and kind. Why are our SIV businesses not able to have specific representation? My response is, ‘because we don’t yet have a strong enough industry group’. Our current thinking is that when SIVMAS grows into a stronger organisation, it will have a mandate (from SIV businesses) to support young people with a clear and sustainable plan. The strength of SIVMAS and the development of a plan would establish a platform for it to deliver from.
As stated earlier, we recognise that collaboration across the board is required, but we can’t wait for other groups to work through their own roadblocks and general malaise. We will continue to make the voices of our members heard and counted as best we can.
To that end, we are working on a SIVMAS show for 2021. At present we’re conducting a feasibility study and remain hopeful of an April/May show in Hamilton. We are extremely interested in showcasing SIV businesses and what they do. We also intend to showcase our SIVs at a “National Special Interest Vehicle and Speed Show” ©; or perhaps “The National SIV and Speed Show” ©. If anyone has an interest in partnering with SIVANZ on this event, we’d love to hear from you.
In our current collective SIV environments, there is no quiet way to get noticed. We have to compete against the noise of the swirling tornado, and at SIVANZ we simply don’t choose to amble along. We want to be noticed by the government so that when the time comes to talk about SIVs staying on the road, we get to be in the room with them. We may not be first to the table, but we want to get into the room for the conversation. We will continue to make submissions to government on behalf of our members and seek an audience so that we can tell the SIVANZ story.
Another significant component of that spinning mess around us is the ever-increasing climate change discussions. It is those challenges which are driving massive government investment in EV’s promotion, promotion of emissions reductions and vehicle safety initiatives with an accompanied undertone of anti-petrol-powered vehicle messaging. As you will be well aware, there are a number of television advertisements promoting electric vehicles, safety ratings/safety performance of vehicles and that “dirty” oilman is back on TV trying to sell petrol. It all seems pretty innocuous, doesn’t it? But what’s happening is that the general public who are not necessarily for or against SIVs, are being slowly conditioned with very clever messaging along the lines of;
A recent news item talked about the Act Party targeting the ‘gas guzzlers’ if they get into government this election. They were not referring to SIVs specifically, just petrol-powered cars (the aged fleet). Most of our cars will not meet the promoted standards (safety, emissions or other), so If we don’t develop a plan which unites us properly and tells our story, the general public will become conditioned to be subconsciously anti-petrol-fuelled cars. It will become more difficult for us to battle government agency proposals and public opinion at the same time. Here’s a side challenge: next time you plan to host an SIV event for charity, before you hand over the money raised ask the charity what their position is on climate change concerning SIVs and keeping them on the road, and if they would support you publicly if requested.
I’ve read of NZ climate change proponents planning out the next ten years of challenge and protest about protecting the environment, and transport emissions is a target area. In response to that, which clubs/groups are you aware of that have a plan which specifically promotes keeping our cars on the road accompanied by an action plan? (excluding SIVANZ). The point is that environmental groups around us are openly talking about what they are going to do to win the climate change battle and influence government policy over the next five years (2025 is a milestone year for EV groups to attain 250,000 EVs on the road). Note too, that 2030 is the first main milestone year for the NZ government to demonstrate achievement to the Paris Accord emission reduction targets. If we don’t have a plan and a voice, our SIVs will become the collateral damage to some of these adopted policies.The tornado mentioned in this article is an analogy for a future perfect storm – possibly a SIV Armageddon. If we’re not constantly evolving, adapting or changing, we will become irrelevant; we will evaporate. So, what will you do next?