News - Holden
Holden open to factory use
Proposal for smaller car-makers to use Holden's Elizabeth plant after 2017 closure
1 Dec 2015
GM HOLDEN says it welcomes the idea of niche car-makers using its South Australian factory once production of the Commodore and Cruze finishes there in 2017.
The offer by Holden to allow the Elizabeth facility in Adelaide's outer north to be used by small-capacity car manufacturers later this decade follows a report by The Weekend Australian that details federal independent senator Nick Xenophon's push to spare the local industry from total shut-down.
According to a Holden spokesperson, the company said back in 2013 when it announced that it would shut its local manufacturing operations that it hoped to see the South Australian facility continue as a manufacturing hub or repurposed as something else that would “have a positive impact in SA and the wider country”.
An official statement from the car-maker reiterated Holden’s position of being open to offers.
“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.”
According to the News Limited publication, Senator Xenophon has had meetings with niche Australian car-makers Ethan Automotive and Red Automotive Technologies and Belgian company Punch Group about the possibility of taking over at least part of the American car-making giant's facility.
“This is something that needs bipartisan support,” he said. “It’s a long shot, but if we walk away from this sector it will scar our manufacturing prospects forever.
“It’s very important that industry and the federal government do not put up the white flag just because General Motors, Ford and Toyota are planning to exit.
“The next six months will be critical: once we’ve lost car manufacturing in Australia, it is gone.
“With a low Australian dollar there is real optimism – it will be a minor miracle but it is not out of the question.”
The independent senator told the publication that he believes the federal government should approach Holden and ask the company to open its doors to other automotive outfits, adding that the ideal scenario was for any future commercial arrangement to be made between existing manufacturing plants and prospective car-makers.
However, Ethan Automotive chief operating officer Matthew Newey said facilities such as Holden, Ford and Toyota's plants were designed for high-volume manufacturing, whereas his start-up company believes a different approach is more likely to succeed in Australia.
“Success in this market requires an agile low-volume facility and an entirely new manufacturing infrastructure,” he told The Australian.
The ambitious car-maker says on its website that its approach to manufacturing would be entirely different to how it had been done in Australia in the past, and highlighted examples of countries such as the United Kingdom that had successfully resurrected its automotive industry, thanks in part to a re-think of production techniques.
“Created specifically for a fragmented market the Ethan approach is inherently nimble, with the ability to respond to dynamic consumer demands quickly and easily,” he said.
“As well as manufacturing our complete portfolio from a common modular platform Ethan Automotive will be a Low Volume Vehicle Producer,” the website says.
The car-maker has already announced that the first vehicle to roll off its production line will be an SUV, because of Australia's appetite for high-riding wagons, but it is unclear when this will happen.
Automotive website motoring.com.au has also reported that Belgian businessman Guido Dumarey, who owns the Punch Group, has approached GM Holden to buy the Elizabeth site and continue to build the VF Commodore there after the scheduled factory closure by the end of 2017.
The Holden spokesperson said that the company had “not been directly approached” by Punch Group, Red Automotive Technologies or Ethan Automotive.
Senator Xenophon, meanwhile, has been vocal in his support of the automotive industry and the wider impact the closure will have on parts suppliers and other sub-sectors, particularly in his home state of South Australia.
As reported by GoAuto, Senator Xenophon last week called on the federal government to release funds from the Automotive Transformation Scheme to assist struggling parts-makers.
“We need that money now, urgently, otherwise we are facing a tsunami of job losses in this country – 200,000 jobs will be lost unless we get behind companies like Supashock,” he said at an event for the Adelaide-based Damper makers.
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