On a crisp evening in mid-July, VIA welcomed senior industry representatives and Government officials at The Grounds Eatery in Henderson, for our annual Vehicle Industry Dinner. With the now-customary address by our current Minister of Transport, the Hon Phil Twyford, the event lived up to its growing reputation as “the” industry event of the year.

While it is always a convivial affair, with outstanding food and a relaxed ambience, this perhaps belies its strategic intent and importance to our organisation. The most obvious general benefit to those attending is networking. It’s fair to say that a lot of key figures in our industry have been around for a wee while now – but with the robust competition at play, it is not always easy or appropriate to mingle. Our events, which also include our AGMs and the sponsors’ end-of-year Christmas function, are often the only chance that some of our stakeholders get to socialise – and photos are not always welcome!

Acknowledging Our Sponsors

Among several key reasons for holding our Vehicle Industry Dinner is to acknowledge the invaluable support of our sponsors and corporate members. While they share the same voting rights in the Association as all members, these companies (and often the individuals who run them) provide substantial financial support to our activities throughout the year.

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. The industry, as a whole, relies on our pooled resources to address mission-critical issues like the stink bug crisis, the Takata airbag recall and the many others that came before; not to mention the significant, and in some cases still unknown, challenges that lie ahead. To recognise this extra level of contribution, we extend the invitation to key events, as part of a suite of benefits.

Building Relationships – Before We Need Them

As well as welcoming long-standing members and associates, our mid-winter dinner gives us the opportunity to invite new officials or market players into our network. There are obvious tangible benefits to them, whether it be familiarising themselves further with our industry’s workings, meeting particular contacts, or putting faces to names after working together at a distance.

More importantly for us, it fosters the strength of VIA’s network. Barrie Saunders, an expert in government relations who has given me excellent advice over the years, has always counselled to “build relationships, before you need them”. It’s difficult if you only meet people – especially officials or politicians – when you suddenly have a crisis or request. Far better to have a good working relationship with them already, forged under positive circumstances and with a mutual appreciation of each other’s roles.

Keeping The Doors Open Throughout The Supply Chain

Another interesting fact about our Vehicle Industry Dinner is that, from the business side, it tends to draw much more heavily on service providers to the industry than the dealers themselves. To a large degree, this is down to the makeup of our sponsor and corporate member cohort. However, it’s also true that events like this serve the particular purpose of strengthening our supply chain across its entire reach – within New Zealand and beyond.

Taking the stink bug issue as an example: whilst our wholesale and dealer network felt the full force of the impact, addressing the immediate and longer-term protection measures falls largely with the shippers, accredited Biosecurity Inspection Organisations, compliance shops and transport companies – working closely alongside Government agencies like MPI. While that initial crisis is at bay, for the moment, complex prevention planning is very much ongoing, and it is beneficial for all the parties involved to work on their own relationships and meet others who may potentially help them in the future.

Naming Rights: Event Sponsors Welcome

As is the case with most of our activities, VIA’s Vehicle Industry Dinner would not be possible without the support of our sponsors. As this is a high-profile event, VIA welcomes particular involvement from any of our sponsors or corporate members who wish to help cover the costs involved, and be acknowledged to a greater or lesser extent as they prefer. This year, Provident Insurance generously sponsored the event, in partnership with their client company Stadium Finance, while last year’s dinner was jointly sponsored by JEVIC and VINZ.

Such is the stature of this event that we are already accepting proposals from organisations wishing to sponsor it next year! This is surely the highest praise we could hope for, and a tribute to all those who have made these events such a rewarding experience for us all.