Sup­port is crit­i­cal, warns Holden boss

The im­por­tance of the car in­dus­try to Aus­tralia should not be un­der­es­ti­mated, Mark Reuss tells PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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

pol­icy right.

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