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Carr demotion a “particularly poor decision”

Up in the air: Senator Kim Carr will soon conduct talks with GM chiefs in Detroit to discuss investment in local product like the Holden Commodore.

FCAI slams recent demotion of minister Kim Carr on eve of crucial Detroit meetings

6 Jan 2012

AUSTRALIA’S peak automotive body has again slammed last month’s demotion of its champion in federal cabinet, Kim Carr, as he prepares for crucial meetings with General Motors and Ford executives during next week’s Detroit motor show.

Senator Carr held the ministerial post for industry and innovation before being removed from Federal Cabinet and handed the lesser portfolio of manufacturing and defence in December last year.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Ian Chalmers took aim at the cabinet reshuffle – which was ultimately decided by prime minister Julia Gillard – at yesterday’s announcement of Australian sales figures for 2011.

“I think the industry was deeply disappointed at the decision to move Senator Carr and his portfolio responsibilities out of cabinet,” he said.

“Senator Carr has been and continues to be a magnificent advocate for automotive manufacturing in this country, and I can’t speak highly enough of his support in policy terms and his advocacy for our industry both nationally and in cabinet.”

While Mr Chalmers stated cautious optimism regarding Senator Carr’s replacement Greg Combet, he expressed concern over the breadth of responsibilities handed to him as part of the reshuffle.

80 center imageLeft: Ian Chalmers. Below: Senator Kim Carr and Minister Greg Combet.

Mr Combet took on the industry and innovation post alongside his existing climate change and energy efficiency portfolio, with Mr Chalmers calling it an “extraordinarily broad array of ministerial responsibilities”.

“Minister Combet is a very highly regarded and very competent minister, and I’m quite sure that he will be an effective and persuasive advocate on behalf of our industry in cabinet,” he said.

“But that doesn’t lessen in any way our deep disappointment in the removal of Senator Carr’s portfolio and indeed Senator Carr himself from cabinet – a particularly poor decision from our perspective.”

Mr Chalmers said that the FCAI had not spoken directly with the prime minister about the reshuffle, but said that he was sure she was fully aware of the organisation’s stance.

He also iterated that he saw little likelihood that the decision would be reversed, saying “we’ll have to live with it, and we are confident that Senator Carr will make his views heard where they need to be heard in the future.”

As we have reported, Senator Carr is set to take part in meetings with GM (Holden’s parent company) and Ford brass in their home city of Detroit to secure investment from both companies in their Australian manufacturing operations.

The senator’s meetings will happen just as GM is considering how to proceed in 2018 when the upcoming 2014 VF Commodore is due to be replaced.

For Ford, the time frame is different, with the next all-new Falcon due by 2015, but global design chief J Mays has indicated that the form of a future Falcon will be unveiled soon.

That form might become apparent as early as next week’s Detroit show.

Sales of both brand’s locally-made staples – the Commodore and Falcon – plummeted to their lowest levels in years in 2011, with the big Holden toppled as Australia’s top-selling car – a crown worn for 15 years – by the small Mazda3.

Ford’s once-mighty Falcon fared even worse, finishing the year as the ninth best-selling vehicle and recording a sales drop of 35.5 per cent.

Despite this, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs told GoAuto this week (see separate story linked below) in Delhi that the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, a full year of sales of the new EcoPLi gas model and a recent facelift that added more value would arrest this worrying slide.

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