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Cash grab claims “purely speculative” says Holden

Decision time: GM needs clarity from government if it is to pump $1b into Australia to build the next Cruze and Commodore from 2016, says SA premier Jay Weatherill.

Holden refutes reports it will seek another big dip into the public purse

Holden logo11 Jul 2013

HOLDEN has dismissed reports that it is seeking to double the amount of government assistance for its next generation of Australian-made cars.

The car-maker was responding to a story in The Australian today claiming that the car-maker had sought an extra $265 million from the public purse to help it remain here beyond the three-year model life of its existing crop of locally made cars.

Holden external communications director Emily Perry said reports that it was asking for a similar amount of assistance as the $275 million it had already secured in state and federal assistance was “purely speculative”.

“Our plan remains to bring two new global platforms into our Elizabeth facility in the future,” Ms Perry said.

To execute this next-generation program there are several milestones we must achieve — the two most crucial being reducing our structural costs and improving productivity in our factory, along with the implementation of clear, consistent and globally competitive industry policy.

We are in close and constant discussions with both sides of politics — at a state and federal level — but are not in a position to publicly comment on the details of those discussions,” she said.

“We will also not be commenting publicly on the process, or any meetings, that may need to occur as we work towards securing the future of Holden manufacturing.”

Ms Perry said Holden was doing “everything in its power” to keep the manufacturing plant open and “lay the long-term foundations necessary to achieve the next-generation program”.

Industry minister Kim Carr today said the figures quoted in The Australian were “quite extraordinary”.

“I frankly am not in a position to comment on the details of the conversations we are having (with Holden),” Mr Carr told ABC News Radio this morning when asked about the claim.

“What I can say ... is that the Labor government remains absolutely committed to ensuring we have a prosperous automotive industry in Australia.”

Mr Carr also skirted the question of whether Holden was using Ford’s announcement as a means of extracting more out of the government to support its manufacturing business.

“I think what Holden is concerned about is that there’ has been a breakdown in the traditional bipartisan approach to co-investment for the automotive industry in Australia,” Mr Carr said.

“... I think what’s being expressed with the automotive industry in Australia is a concern to get automotive policy certainty and to ensure that the position that is presented by the political parties in Australia is clear as to the future directions an Australian government would take.”

Holden is remaining tight-lipped on the talks with the government and its workers, which are expected to conclude by the end of this month with a workforce vote on any deal hammered out between the car-maker and unions.

The Labor government today also responded to claims that the car-maker was cashing in on Ford’s announcement last month that it would quit making cars in Australia from late 2016, with Holden seeking to gain as much political advantage as it could before the federal election later this year.

The claims are in contrast to what Holden chief executive Mike Devereux told GoAuto shortly after Ford made its announcement.

“I think the conversation we’re currently having and the conversations that we started today would have had absolutely no difference in timing with or without Ford’s announcement,” Mr Devereux said last month after Holden said it wanted to fast-track talks with unions about wage cuts that would help keep its Australian business viable.

“We know that our next-gen business case is challenged with the current economic environment,” he said.

“We know that it costs too much per car to make the cars here right now, and we have to reduce that.”

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