Support is critical, warns Holden boss
The importance of the car industry to Australia should not be underestimated, Mark Reuss tells PAUL GOVER
USE it or lose it. That is the blunt warning from the chairman of GM Holden on the future of car manufacturing in Australia.
As the countdown to a major review of the motor industry enters its final days, Mark Reuss says it is important for everyone to understand its importance.
Reuss says the automotive sector is second only to mining as an export earner and generates $27 billion of economic activity each year.
‘‘Holden alone spent $420 million in research and development last year, which has made it Australia’s largest private sector R&D investor for a number of years now,’’ he says.
He warns Australia is competing for global investments and must ensure it gives the right support to the three remaining local car makers.
‘‘Look around the world and you will see governments competing to establish an automotive manufacturing base in their countries. To those who don’t have one, the benefits are obvious,’’ Reuss says.
‘‘To countries that already have an automotive manufacturing industry, like Australia, the message is equally clear: if you lose it you are unlikely to ever get it back.
‘‘And what you lose could be a lot more significant than many commentators seem to understand.’’
Reuss is not making any specific requests of the Federal Government, but says Holden needs a clear policy platform as it plans beyond 2010.
‘‘If the global playing field is level, we will do the rest,’’ he says.
Despite sales uncertainty for the rest of the year, Reuss — who only arrived from the US in February — believes the motor industry in Australia is doing well.
‘‘It’s fair to say that we are in the middle of an incredibly vibrant and dynamic time in the automotive industry here in Australia,’’ he says.
‘‘I’ve only been here a few months and even in that short period it has been a rollercoaster ride of rapidly escalating fuel prices and foreign exchange rates running at record highs.
‘‘Alongside this has been the major government review of the automotive industry and questions over the industry’s future viability . . . and, more surprisingly to me, questions over whether there is a need to have an automotive manufacturing industry here in Australia at all.’’
Reuss warns of dire consequences if the Government does not get its policy right.
‘‘It’s not just the jobs of those workers who assemble the final product, but also the thousands of highly skilled engineers, designers and specialist suppliers, as well as billions of dollars in related investment,’’ he says.
Stakes are high: Mark Reuss says there will be dire consequences if the Federal Government does not get its auto industry