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Parts makers called on to shake ‘parasite’ image

Bit players: Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers president Jim Griffin has warned the industry that it needs to shake off its negative image.

FAPM chief “sick to death” of knockers talking down car-making industry

18 Nov 2013

CAR and parts makers need to show they are not parasites on taxpayers and instead make a big contribution to society and the economy, the industry’s guardian has warned.

It also needed to convince the Australian government to draw up plans to raise production similar to schemes in Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, the US, Germany and Britain, Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM) president Jim Griffin said.

Speaking at the FAPM annual conference last week, Mr Griffin also said the industry had to counter the negative stereotypes that are swirling round the automotive sector.

“I am sick to death of hearing that Australia should give up making cars because we are not very good at it,” Mr Griffin said in his opening address to the conference.

He said Australia had the world’s most open and unprotected automotive market, the lowest level of government assistance of any car industry, a complete lack of reciprocity in its automotive trading relationships with other countries and a currency which even the Reserve Bank could not deflate to where it should be.

“I believe that still being here today for our 54th conference is a true indication of just how bloody well we do make cars and components in this country,” Mr Griffin said.

“We are good at what we do, and to say otherwise is a slap in the face to every Australian working in or for this industry. And there is a hell of a lot of them.”

He said that, with “the dark clouds of uncertainty and speculation” looming again, with the Productivity Commission inquiry under way and the futures of GM Holden and Toyota Australia unclear, the industry had to take stock and think of the future.

“Could we all please stop and think?” Mr Griffin said. “Let’s stop focusing on predicting how big the hole will be in the economy if the car industry goes.

“Rather, let’s dare to imagine how much stronger we would be if we had appropriate policy settings and globally competitive programs in place to grow our automotive industry in accordance with a strategic vision for the future of the sector.”

Mr Griffin said the industry should think about how strong it would be if it were supported to a level that was competitive with other car-making nations.

“Today we make 220,000 cars a year. Let’s develop a plan for 300,000 or more.

“We are not parasites. The industry employs a vast number of people in highly trained and productive jobs that add a great deal of value to the Australian economy.”

Mr Griffin said the industry’s employees and their families would face a bleak future if the “dry economic modelers” – with no comprehension of strategic national interest or any awareness of the likely social impact – were to decide the industry’s fate.

“Having an automotive manufacturing industry is a good thing, a highly productive thing. It propagates investment, it nurtures research and development, it feeds innovation and it employs people,” he said.

He called on the industry and all its participants and customers to make submissions to the Productivity Commission inquiry to demonstrate the value of the industry to Australia and its contribution to the economy.

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