The future of local car manufacturing may hinge on next year’s federal election, according to GM Holden’s managing director Mike Devereux. Holden has committed to investing $1 billion to continue building cars until 2022 but Devereux said yesterday that investment is dependent on federal policies that support co-investment by local carmakers.
The Liberal-National coalition have questioned the rationale of government investment -- which they describe as support -- for the three local auto brands: Holden, Ford and Toyota.
Devereux said he wasn’t advocating any political party but Holden’s parent company, GM, needed certainly to continue investing. “I just want to sell cars, I don’t want to be part of the political debate in this country,” he noted. “In a business sense … I need to understand very clearly in a forward looking sense what each party’s policy is on auto manufacturing. Are they committed to making things in this country?
“I don’t know what the (Coalition) position is … but we need an intelligent approach to bipartisan policy. If this becomes a ‘he said/she said’ thing -- literally -- it is going to be very difficult. Whatever one says the other refutes … we need to move beyond the political rhetoric.”
Devereux cited the UK, where pro-active government policies have resulted in $10 billion of auto investment in the past two years, and the US election campaign, where Barak Obama championed his bailout of the carmakers, as examples where the automotive industry assumes national importance.
“In the United States the issue of making things in the USA and the auto industry was certainly a large factor in the re-election of President Barack Obama. It became an election issue, it was front and centre,” he said.
“2013 will be the year that Australia decides whether it wants an auto industry or not,” he said. “My hope is the auto industry is not an election issue, it is a bipartisan issue. Either way there needs to be another broad-based review (of the industry).”
Devereux said building cars in Australia was among the most expensive places in the world for GM. “Walking away (from local production) is easier for GM. The right thing for our brand is to make things in this country.”
"We are not doing that to be nice to this country, we are doing it because it is the best thing for our brand and our business in this country. That is why we want to make things here. I think it also happens to be good for the country.”