Ford Australia and GM Holden are waiting to hear the outcome of a last- ditch appeal by their American parents for $15 billion in critical short-term funding to prevent them going into bankruptcy.
"We don't know how it could play out if they fail. That's not a prospect that anyone wants to contemplate," the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Andrew McKellar, said yesterday.
"The fortunes of all the local manufacturers are intrinsically tied to their global parents. The situation for the American companies is obviously extremely serious. They are not bluffing."
There is no direct threat to either Ford Australia or GM Holden, and company chiefs insist there is no crisis at Broadmeadows or Fishermans Bend, but the drama in the American motor industry continues to create ripples of confidence in Australia.
"It is business as usual. But it is ever-more imperative that we continue to sell our cars and run our business correctly," the spokesperson for Ford Australia, Sinead McAlary, said yesterday.
"At Holden it's business as usual, just as it has been throughout the entire US process. We are continuing our efforts to address local market conditions," said Jonathan Rose of GM Holden.
The 'Big Three' have appealed to President Bush for bridging loans to carry them through the first half of 2009 after the American Senate voted-down their original proposal for a bail-out. New-vehicle sales in the USA have collapsed as a result of the American financial meltdown, with analysts forecasting a 17-million market will drop to around 10 million next year.
Chrysler, which is only an importer here, will also be affected by any decision in Washington.
"I don't know very much," Chrysler Australia's managing director, Gerry Jenkins, admitted yesterday.
"We all know in our heart of heart that the US economy is going to get better. We just don't know where the bottom is. We are riding the bronco.
"Everything is unfortunately about the US. The economy will have to turn before any positive comes out."