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Importers get a look-in at FCAI top job

Rule change: FCAI president Mike Devereux (left) - seen here with prime minister Julia Gillard - told GoAuto that sections of the old constitution had outlived their usefulness.

Rule change means FCAI presidency no longer a certainty for local car-makers

General News logo26 May 2011

THE ascendancy of imported vehicles on the Australian market has been reflected in a change to the constitution of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) which no longer requires the president to be a representative of one of the local manufacturers.

The old clause, enshrined in the constitution decades ago when up to six local car-makers had an iron grip on local sales, was deleted under a revised constitution approved by FCAI members at yesterday’s annual meeting in Canberra.

So far this year, Australian-made vehicles have snared just 11 per cent of sales across the country – down from 26 per cent five years ago – although exports contribute significant further numbers to their volumes.

The FCAI represents not only the local vehicle manufacturers but also car, truck and motorcycle importers. However, the presidents have always come from the ranks of the manufacturers – usually the CEO or president of Holden, Ford or Toyota.

This has meant that only three of the 11 directors have been eligible for the top chair, even though car importers hold six seats and motorcycle importers one seat.

 center imageLeft: FCAI life membership recipient, Lindsay Smalley.

FCAI president Mike Devereux – the chairman and CEO of GM Holden – told GoAuto that sections of the old constitution had outlived their usefulness.

“The constitution was written in a different era, probably before I was born, in the mid ‘60s,” he said.

“The contemporariness of the language – or the lack thereof – in the constitution needed updating, and there were a few clauses in the constitution that needed change.

“We no longer specifically require that a local manufacturer hold the title of president, and that is something that all of us on the board, whether we were importers or local manufacturers, felt was frankly a point of contention from an era that isn’t relevant any more.

“We need to pick the right person for the times regardless of whether they are an importer or local manufacturer.

“Will that change our history of appointments of presidents? I don’t know. But I think it was an outdated clause that was quite unnecessary. The industry will pick the right representative for the time.”

Mr Devereux, who was re-elected president for another term at yesterday’s meeting, said having black and white restrictions in a constitution was not intelligent.

“So we have a contemporary document now, and an approach that says the industry understands what it needs to do to maintain the production and the technology base here and to get good outcomes on safety and the environment,” he said.

“As the industry moves forward in the next decade or so, it will pick the appropriate person for the role according to the needs of the industry at the time.

“And that will be a natural process, not a forced process.”

Currently, all three local manufacturer bosses – Mr Devereux, Toyota Australia president Masahide Yasuda and Ford Australia president Bob Graziano – are directors.

Importers are represented by Honda’s Lindsay Smalley – who is a vice president along with Mr Yasuda – Mazda’s Doug Dickson, Jaguar Land Rover’s David Blackhall, Sime Darby’s Rob Dommerson, Mercedes-Benz’s Hans Tempel and Porsche’s Michael Winkler.

Motorcycles are represented by Yamaha’s Steven Cotterell, while Holden’s corporate affairs executive director Samantha Read also is a director.

On Wednesday night at the FCAI gala dinner at Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Smalley was recognised for his service to the FCAI with a life membership.

He becomes the 21st life member since the first was awarded in 1982, joining a list that includes industry luminaries such as Toyota’s Bob Johnston and John Conomos, Ford’s Bill Dix, Holden’s Peter Hanenberger, Ian Grigg and Peter Thomas and Honda Motorcycle’s Stuart Strickland.

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