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‘We will not give up on this industry’, says Carr

Funding: Federal industry minister Kim Carr has vowed to continue supporting the local car industry.

Industry minister vows to continue to offer local car industry ‘significant’ funds

General News logo7 Nov 2011

FEDERAL industry minister Kim Carr has vowed that the Gillard government will not be “intimidated by the challenge” of providing ongoing support for the Australian motor industry as Holden and Ford prepare to make crucial decisions over the future of their locally produced large cars.

Addressing a meeting of the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM) in Melbourne last Friday – the day after Holden called for more government funding amid union allegations that its 2018 Commodore was set to be designed and engineered overseas – Senator Carr said that “significant” funds were still available for the industry.

He also called on the industry to strengthen its Australian design and engineering base, as well as manufacturing, rather than resort to cutbacks.

Earlier this year, the federal government abolished the Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF) – originally meant to provide $1.3 billion in assistance to the industry over 12 years – to help pay for Queensland flood recovery.

However, some $5.4 billion remains available under the ‘New Car Plan for a Greener Future’, which runs until 2020.

The bulk of these funds are contained in the Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS), which took effect in January and focuses on the research and development of products that improve the industry’s environmental performance.

80 center imageFrom top: Holden production at Elizabeth, Ford engine production in Geelong and Toyota production at Altona.

“Let me be clear,” Senator Carr said. “For this government, our mission is exactly the same as it was in 2008: to ensure that Australia remains one of the 13 countries in the world with the full capacity to play its part in the global automotive industry – from conception to the production line.

“This is not the moment for any us to walk away from that. It is certainly not the moment to reduce government support for the car industry.

“We will not be intimidated by the challenge. We will not give up on this industry.”

The outcome of crucial decisions from both Ford and Holden should soon be made known on the future of their Australian-built large cars due for release in the second half of this decade, with both manufacturers considering a controversial switch to global front-wheel-drive platforms.

Holden’s chairman and managing director Mike Devereux, who is also the president of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, has been particularly critical of the abolishment of the GCIF.

Last week he repeated a call for more funding as he refused to commit to the local design, engineering and manufacture of the Commodore beyond the 2014 VF model.

Senator Carr said production by Australia’s three remaining car-makers – Toyota, Ford and Holden – would this year slump to the levels of 1957, when Holden’s FE model ruled the roads.

He said the same global economic conditions that slashed local production volumes were also pushing car-makers around the world towards global platforms.

Similarly, increasingly stringent emissions standards were promoting uniformity in engineering.

The minister warned that both trends would make it more difficult for local producers to participate if they left it too long.

However, he vowed to continue supporting the industry at a time when manufacturers – and major component suppliers – were developing their mid- to long-term strategies in Australia. “I know the industry is now formulating its investment and innovation plans,” he said. “The context is that there is a significant amount of money remaining in the New Car Plan for a Greener Future.”

Senator Carr called on the industry to invest in its future by pursuing the technologies that were identified in the Automotive Australia 2020 roadmap released last year.

“(The Roadmap) highlighted the need to develop our industry capacities in electrification (of cars), light-weighting and gaseous fuels,” Senator Carr said.

In particular, he called on the Automotive Industry Innovation Council, which acts as an innovation advocate for the industry and advises Senator Carr, to implement the plans and strategies outlined in the Auto 2020 roadmap.

“We need to strengthen our design and engineering base, and our manufacturing,” he said.

“We want to further expand our involvement in global supply chains.”

Senator Carr said the parts industry knew a lot about Australia’s two-speed economy because “you have been living the reality of life in the slower lane”.

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