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Holden’s US export program is safe for now
GM manufacturing chief says there are no plans to send G8 production to North America
28 Nov 2007
GENERAL Motors’ global manufacturing chief said today that there are no plans to shift production of the forthcoming Pontiac G8 from Australia to North America in the immediate future.
Full-scale production of the Commodore-based G8 has only recently commenced at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in Adelaide, but there has been speculation that unfavourable currency rate shifts – as well as under-utilised plants in North America – was making GM reconsider future production sources.
However, GM vice-president of global manufacturing and labour relations, Gary Cowger, gave qualified support for the Australian export program to the US.
Speaking in Adelaide this afternoon, Mr Cowger said that there are no plans “at this point” to move production to either the US or a new plant opening next year in Canada, or even to China.
“There are no plans in place at all to do anything like that,” said Mr Cowger, who oversees 182 plants in 37 countries.
Left: VE Calais Sportwagon and Gary Cowger.
“Right now we’re focussed on getting the benefit of our half-billion dollar investment right here (at Elizabeth) and making sure that we have a good launch of not only the G8 but of all of the new products that (we) are launching here at Holden.
“I’m not going to make any plant announcements on locations of production. The G8 is coming on schedule (and) I think the plant is getting up to speed.
“As I went through the plant this morning, I saw the ramp-up of the production of the G8, so we’re excited about that. We are looking forward to getting those into the market in the US.
“I’ve driven the car and I think it will do very well in the market. The NVH, the ride and handling, the smoothness, the execution, the interiors, the overall fit and finish and the appearance of the product is really first class. So I’m optimistic it will do well.
“We think this is a great plant, a good workforce, the product looks good, so we’re excited about getting this up to full production here.” Asked specifically about the affect of the strengthening Australian dollar, Mr Cowger said: “You have to look at a lot of different things. We basically look at landed cost currency is clearly one of them, but there’s also tariffs, shipping, a lot of other things that go into making up the business case.
“Currency would not be the one that would drive you one way or the other. You want to make sure you are in some kind of a balance with your currencies, but the (US) dollar is fundamentally falling against a lot of the major currencies, except the Yen.” Mr Cowger would not be drawn on the potential for Pontiac versions of either the Commodore Ute or next year’s wagon variant for the US market.
“There’s certainly lots of interest in it,” he said. “There’s been no program beyond the G8 that’s been approved, but I can say there’s lots of interest.
“People will continue to look at the viability of it as long as you can make good solid business cases out of it, because they are terrific products. There is a lot of excitement about those products – in a lot of different markets.
“The Ute is a terrific new design and terrific execution of interior, materials, fit and finish. I’m very positive it will do well in this marketplace. The new product looks outstanding.” Having just arrived in the country – chairing GM’s first quarterly global manufacturing leadership meeting to be held in Australia – Mr Cowger did not comment on the affect of this week’s change of government in Australia or its anticipated new labour laws.
However, Holden executive director of manufacturing Rod Keane noted that there are no workplace agreements (AWAs) in place at Elizabeth and the company’s current enterprise bargaining agreement is due for renewal next year.
After touring the plant, Mr Cowger said he was “very impressed with the operations” at Elizabeth, which expects to return to full capacity with the G8 export program.
“I was impressed today,” he said. “We’ve invested about half a billion dollars in this plant and Rod and the team over the last two years have done a tremendous job on improving quality, productivity and safety.
“With the launch of the new platform that we’re building here, I think that as long as we continue making progress on productivity and quality, I’m very positive about it.”
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