An Illustrated History of Ampol: The inspiring story of a company that shaped a nation

By Matt Halliday, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer

The following is the foreword from Colin J. Dennett's book An Illustrated History of Ampol: The inspiring story of a company that shaped a nation.

The story of Ampol's history and role in the development of Australia is as inspiring and relevant today as it has ever been.

'Show me a mountain and I'll show you a way to get over it,' was the maxim of Ampol founder W.G. Walkley.

Born in Otaki, New Zealand, Walkley's indomitable approach to business first took root in the Associated Motorists Petrol Company of New Zealand, which he helped establish in 1931 to deliver more competitive fuel pricing to local motorists.

Claiming 10 per cent of the New Zealand market in only two years, Walkley's early success lifted his gaze to a larger market across the Tasman, and in 1936 the Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited was created to take on the established overseas-owned oil companies that dominated the Australian market at the time.

Under Walkley's leadership the company went from a modest two-room office and rented typewriter in Sydney to a major Australian company with diverse interests across sectors nationally. At the time of the merger with Caltex Oil Australia in 1995, the combined entity had become the market leader in Australia and has remained so to this day.

Along the way, Ampol, as it became in 1949, was known as an innovator, using its bold, nimble and ambitious approach to push into new frontiers, pioneer technology that would shape our industry and invest to support the growth and development of the country.

Walkley's belief was that working for Australia was part of working for Ampol and this was reflected in many of the milestones that underpinned the company's growth through time.

From Walkley's travel to Washington during WWII to secure 50,000 drums of motor spirit for the Australian Government, to the company's leading role in the discovery of oil in the Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia and commitment to local construction and manufacturing of fuel tankers as it expanded, Ampol always put Australia's interests first.

The company's successful campaign to drive the end of petrol rationing at the end of the 1940s, against the approach of the multinationals of the time that preferenced supply to markets overseas, was a win-win outcome for the company and the economy.

The history of Ampol is also a lesson about the importance of being ambitious and nimble and of risk-taking and innovation in business. Ampol's response to the 'one brand' retail and marketing strategy of its major multinational competitors in the 1950s was to buy land and build its own stations of more modern design to support its own expansion. Ampol took calculated risks to grow and backed its people as they executed the company's strategy.

Ampol also pursued innovation in marketing and sponsorship and its commitment to improving Australian communities set it apart from its peers. Ampol supported men's and women's sports through the post-war boom with iconic event sponsorships and was an early supporter of the expansion of surf lifesaving across the country. The 'I'm as Australian as Ampol' advertising campaign of the late 1980s was one of the best of its generation and is still recalled by our customers today.

Walkley's approach and the founding principles that shaped Ampol across its history remain central to our company today. Like the economic challenges of the post-war period, the energy transition is upon us, and the world is changing. Our business has a key role to play in working with customers, government and other stakeholders to build new energy solutions for the future. We began as the Australian Motorists Petrol Company, created to look after the interests of motorists, and we are changing to ensure we can continue to keep Australians moving. Today, as the energy needs of our customers evolve and more of us are choosing electric vehicles, Ampol is also transitioning to provide a range of fast and reliable electric vehicle charging solutions.

Similarly, being nimble, innovative and ambitious remains central to our organisation today and we are pushing to grow our business in new geographies and markets.

Perhaps most importantly, we remain as committed to Australia and Australian communities as we have ever been. Australia's sovereignty matters to us in ways it probably never could to other companies in our industry. We are proud of the role we continue to play in energy security and in supporting the success of major industries across the economy.

It remains an honour to lead this great Australian company. As we close out nearly 100 years since the create of Ampol, we are setting ourselves up to succeed for 100 more. We look forward to writing the next successful chapter in Ampol's history as we grow and evolve in the years ahead.

Click here to purchase a copy of An Illustrated History of Ampol: The inspiring story of a company that shaped a nation by Colin J. Dennett.