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Australia ‘vitally important to General Motors’

Local angle: Sales of the Australian-developed Chevrolet Camaro are "robust", according to GM's vice-president for global public policy, Robert Ferguson.

GM executives ‘optimistic’ about Holden’s production future after Carr meeting

General Motors logo28 Jun 2011

SENIOR General Motors executives have reaffirmed the US auto giant’s commitment to Holden’s manufacturing operations in Australia, following a meeting with federal industry minister Kim Carr in Washington today.

GM’s vice-president for global public policy, Robert Ferguson, and vice-president of international government relations and public policy, Arturo Elias, met with the minister to discuss the company’s recent investments in Australia – aided by significant federal government funding – and “prospects for future growth, particularly with regard to exports”.

“Holden and our Australian facilities are vitally important to General Motors,” Mr Ferguson said. “We are optimistic about the Australian marketplace and the products produced there.

“The research and engineering done in Australia is benefiting the company worldwide. Sales of the Camaro – developed in Australia – are robust.

“We’re also optimistic about the new police cruiser, the Caprice, which is being introduced to the police departments in America’s markets.”

Earlier this week, Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux’s warned that the decision to axe the Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF) threatened the industry’s long-term viability here.

 center imageLeft: GM’s vice-president for global public policy, Robert Ferguson (top) and vice-president of international government relations and public policy, Arturo Elias.

In Washington, Senator Carr described the meeting with GM as “extremely positive”.

“I’m optimistic about the future of GM Holden in Australia and future opportunities for the Australian automotive industry,” he said.

“The Gillard government’s willingness to work in partnership with the automotive industry is clearly understood and appreciated internationally.

“The ‘New Car Plan for a Greener Future’ provides a basis for the continuing transformation of the industry and supports the development of a more competitive Australian manufacturing sector.”

Senator Carr will also meet Ford Motor Company executives in the United States this week, and has announced plans to meet GM and Ford regional management in China – and senior Toyota executives in Bangkok – later this year.

Mr Devereux, who is also the president of car industry’s peak industry body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), told ABC radio on Monday that the axing of the green-car fund “makes it very difficult to look forward to figure out where will that co-investment attraction come from in the future”.

“Australia is not a low-cost country. It also is a country with virtually zero import tariffs. So you've got relatively high costs, zero barriers to entry and in order for it to make sense to make things here there needs to be some, what I consider to be ‘smart industry policy’ which there was just a few years ago,” he said.

He later told ABC radio in Adelaide: “Australia cannot become a hole in the ground for south-east Asia to pull minerals out of and then shift finished goods back to this country.”

As GoAuto has reported, Holden has received $189 million in green-car handouts from the federal government – more than half of the $340 million dished out to car companies and automotive component suppliers to date.

The government axed the GCIF in January to help pay for Queensland’s flood reconstruction, although applications are still being processed.

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