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Record exports set to grow

Camry calling: Altona-built Camry sedans on their way to the Middle East.

Holden and Toyota step up a gear, as Ford and Mitsubishi ponder their export future

Holden logo28 Jan 2005

AS Ford and Mitsubishi continue to mull over export possibilities for current and forthcoming Australian-built vehicles, Holden and Toyota are poised to increase their overseas shipments beyond last year’s record levels.

Having achieved its largest export haul since it shipped around 41,000 HQs offshore in 1973, Holden is now working to better last year’s 52,372 total with new contracts in China, South Korea and, it is understood, India.

While a Holden spokesman has hosed down reports that chairman Denny Mooney is targeting Commodore for India, the company is nonetheless well placed with Buick Royaum-badged Holden Statesmans heading to China from March in a deal involving an estimated 25,000-35,000 cars per annum.

GM Daewoo is also expected to unveil its version of the Statesman with a 2.8-litre version of the Alloytech V6 engine at the Seoul motor show in April.

In 2006, the new generation VE Commodore and its derivatives come on-line to further bolster the boatloads of Holdens heading out, notwithstanding the fact the next generation Pontiac GTO will be built in America.

Most Holden exports are to the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq – where 23,511 vehicles landed last year.

The US received 13,569 Holdens in 2004, followed by New Zealand with 10,331, with 4961 vehicles split between Brazil, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Fiji.

Last year’s 50,000 barrier breach was timely as it also marked the 50th anniversary of Holden exports (FJs to New Zealand), as well as 650,000 worldwide over five decades.

Toyota Australia, which exported a record 67,720 Camrys to 24 countries worldwide during the 2003/04 financial year (in deals worth a combined $1.3 billion), is also confident of exceeding current levels.

Further afield, a new model Camry is due during 2006, which should at least maintain the competitiveness of the car. A redesigned Avalon and an expected third vehicle line at Toyota’s Altona plant, to be based on the next Camry and believed to be an SUV in the style of the Kluger, may also follow suit.

But Toyota, like Holden, faces in-house competition. The Middle Eastern Camry export contract may come under pressure from Toyota’s vast new manufacturing centre in China, as well as the North American plant in Kentucky. Both will also produce the 2006 Camry.

Since 1996, Toyota has delivered over 300,000 Camrys to the Middle East. The region currently takes 93 per cent of all Aussie Camry exports.

In contrast, Ford Australia is still searching for answers to its export questions, although company president Tom Gorman told GoAuto last week the strength and success of the current BA Falcon and Territory has elevated his team within the Ford world.

"There’s been a lot of people and a lot of affiliates that have taken a great deal of interest in terms of what’s happening in Australia on the strength of the Falcon ... and Territory," he said, adding that Ford Australia was now in a stronger position than ever to investigate new right-hand drive export deals.

According to Mr Gorman, there is a separate issue concerning left-hand drive (LHD) export opportunities for Ford Australia, such as the rumoured development work it is undertaking on the replacement for the ancient rear-wheel drive US Crown Victoria sedans.

"To pursue a LHD strategy – now that’s a longer term engineering-intensive decision that we have to make," he said.

Basically, Mr Gorman says there has to be a customer within the Ford world for Australia to undertake such a venture.

"The distance between (any potential overseas) interest and putting together a program means that a lot of work has to be done before those two points are met," he said.

He also asserted that Ford Australia’s engineering team had built up “an enormous amount of credibility within the total Ford world” post-BA Falcon and Territory.

"That gives us opportunities to build something exciting. It allows us to stretch ourselves and to do more things, to be more creative," he said.

"We have built our core skills and proven that we can design and build successful vehicles.

"When things go well they feed on each other and build a groundswell of positive momentum. And we really have that at the moment ... and it bodes well for our future."Ford is aiming to export around 10,000 Falcons and Territorys this year, mainly to New Zealand and South Africa.

In the meantime, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) is believed to be negotiating a second model line spawned off the next generation PS41 Magna/Galant platform due in the third quarter of this year.

Like Toyota’s Camry, the secret sister model to the PS41 may be an SUV, for maximum export potential.

In 2004, around 5500 Magna/Diamantes were exported, a far cry from 2002 when 24,000 Aussie Mitsubishis were delivered worldwide. The US withdrawal of the Diamante was behind much of that.

MMAL has exported about 90,000 Magna-based cars to the US since 1992 and has marketed its models in New Zealand, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Brunei, Fiji, Lebanon, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and most recently Canada and Thailand.

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