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Dumarey in government talks over Holden plant

Holden on: Belgian businessman Guido Dumarey is in Australia for talks over the future of Holden's Elizabeth plant.

Belgian entrepreneur to meet federal and state MPs over Holden's Elizabeth plant

1 Feb 2016

THE man who wants to save GM Holden's South Australian production facility is in Australia this week for discussions with federal and state politicians in an attempt to garner support for his ambitious plans.

Belgian entrepreneur Guido Dumarey, owner of the Punch Group, has previously flagged his interest to take over Holden's Elizabeth plant once the American car-maker shuts its doors by the end of 2017 and continue producing the Commodore, potentially saving hundreds of jobs.

Speaking with the ABC's World Today, South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon told the program that Mr Dumarey's return to Australia could be seen as a positive step.

“Guido Dumarey does have a track record of turning businesses around and he wouldn't be on his third visit in Australia in four months unless he was serious about the proposal,” Mr Xenophon said.

It is not the first time Mr Dumarey has tried to save a General Motors plant from closing its doors.

The automotive giant had planned to shut the Strasbourg, France plant in 2014, but Mr Dumarey rescued the factory, saving about 1000 jobs – which has since grown to 1350. The plant now produces transmissions for tech giant ZF that are fitted to vehicles including BMWs.

Senator Xenophon said that saving the Elizabeth plant was a big task, but added that government assistance would help.

“It's still a big call. It took him five years to negotiate the deal for Strasbourg in France, he has only really got five months this time around. But I think with a bit of help from commonwealth and state governments it is possible.”

Federal industry minister Christopher Pyne confirmed with Adelaide radio station 5AA that he would be meeting with Mr Dumarey in Adelaide on Tuesday to have discussions about the plant's future.

“I am hopeful,” he said. “It would be wrong to raise people's expectations to the extent that they grieve the second time for the loss of a car-maker in South Australia, but I am hopeful that Guido Dumarey and his Punch Corporation can successfully negotiate with General Motors in Detroit, which is out of our hands to an extent.

“But I have spoken to chief executives here in South Australia and happy to continue to do so at GM to encourage them to look in a positive way upon this proposal.”

The Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS) has $800 million available until 2021, providing there is an automotive manufacturing industry in Australia by that time, and Mr Pyne told the radio station that Mr Dumarey could access the funds, based on his projected sales.

“If we can get them to take over the Holden plant, they will be able to access the Automotive Transformation Scheme as long as they produce 30,000 units a year, and that’s what Guido tells me they want to do and that's good news.” Mr Pyne said Mr Dumarey's plans also include creating a hub of parts-makers in the Elizabeth area to bring components suppliers closer to the main manufacturing centre.

“He also has a plan to try and bring all the component manufacturers that would help to make this business viable to Northern Adelaide so it could end up being actually a very significant economic boost to our state, which obviously I would very much like as well,” he said.

“I will keep the ATS open because if there is a car manufacturer in Australia they will be able to access it and I want them to be able to.”

In December Holden released a statement saying that it was the company's hope that the Elizabeth plant could be repurposed beyond beyond 2017.

“The future of the Holden factory remains a work in progress,” the statement reads. “As previously stated, Holden is working through various options and remains very open to repurposing the Adelaide site.

“It is the company's hope that the site could continue to be used in a productive and beneficial manner in South Australia after the cessation of Holden manufacturing. We will continue to consider any proposals presented to us on a commercial in confidence basis.” Should Mr Dumarey's plan succeed, Punch Group would take over the rights to use the GM Zeta platform on which the VF Commodore is based. The car would have to change names as GM owns the rights to Commodore, and will continue using it beyond 2017 when it will be sourced from somewhere else in the global GM world, likely Europe or the United States.

A dealer network would also need to be set up in Australia and in international markets, should the car be part of an export program.

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