Fuelled by the invasion of American vehicles into the Victorian market, mid 1918 saw a rapidly growing retail automotive industry, with 15,150 vehicles and 27,424 drivers licensed in Victoria.
It was during this turbulent time, at the end of the first world war, that two car dealers, Henry Rickards and his brother Percy, realised that smaller, local companies could be forced out of the market place by their larger American counterparts. The brothers called together a small number of garage owners to meet at the Bendigo Chamber of Commerce Rooms on 20 September 1918. In the discussions that followed it was decided an industry association was necessary, which was duly registered as the Retail Motor Dealers’ Association of Victoria.
Present day issues such as vandalism (especially to the stores of petrol traders), industrial disputes, and skilled labour shortages were cropping up as far back as 1918. To rectify these complaints the association introduced a number of committees: the foundation of our current day operation. Soon there were calls to increase the scope of the association to cover allied trades and on 14 April 1920 the association was renamed the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC).
In 1956, VACC purchased real estate on St Kilda Road, Melbourne, becoming the first motor industry association in the southern hemisphere to own freehold property. On 4 September 1958, accompanied by an eight-page newspaper supplement and car cavalcade, the Premier of Victoria Henry Bolte officially opened VACC House.
Today, VACC continues to support its members, and the wider automotive industry, locally and through state-based Motor Trades Associations, including the national body, the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA). As in its early days, VACC provides key services for members; deals with member, consumer and industry issues; campaigns and lobbies governments and other agencies; and promotes automotive industry skills, training and careers. VACC's past is important but so too is the future. With credibility and relevancy, VACC looks forward to many more years as Victoria's peak automotive industry body.