Aussies hold onto Holden design
HOLDEN says its Commodore will continue to be locally designed and engineered, despite union claims to the contrary. Holden said no decisions had been made on the long-term future of its top selling Commodore and it was too far out to speculate on union claims that the next model could be the last engineered in Australia.
But the company refused to guarantee the longterm viability of the car that has topped the sales charts for 15 years.
A report in The Australian Financial Review quoted a prominent union official from The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia as saying: ‘‘GM Holden has canvassed not continuing to work on new model Commodores beyond .’’
But Holden spokeswoman Emily Perry said the report contained significant ‘‘misinformation’’ and that the company ‘‘has not taken any decisions yet’’ regarding the future design, engineering and production of the Commodore.
‘‘We’re committed to designing, engineering and building cars in Australia,’’ Perry said. ‘‘And nothing has changed.’’
The company went into damage control, with Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux taking to the airwaves to allay concerns about job losses. But the Holden boss also took the opportunity to call for more government investment so he could secure jobs long term.
‘‘Our plan is to build, design and engineer cars in this country,’’ Devereux said on Melbourne radio station 3AW.
’We’re negotiating with our partners to make Australia as attractive a place to do these very high tech things [designing and engineering vehicles].
"The outlook for jobs for manufacturing for Holden in Australia is extremely strong. We have two of the bestselling cars in the country: Commodore and Cruze.’
Holden has long been seen as an important design and engineering hub within General Motors.
As well as designing and building one-off concept cars for international motor shows, designers and engineers recently produced the iconic Chevrolet Camaro muscle car for North America.
Devereux said for the Australian automotive industry to be competitive globally it required significant government investment.
He said funding for the automotive industry would ‘‘make it extremely viable to do business here and to thrive’’.
However, Holden stopped short of confirming design and engineering jobs long term and where the next generation Commodore would be produced, with Devereux stating there were ‘‘no guarantees in life or anything’’.
‘‘The bottom line for this . . . Australia is one of only 13 places in the world where we get to design, engineer and build cars. My goal over the next year or so is to make sure that we secure that for a very long time,’’ said Devereaux.
‘‘My job is to focus on what I can control and that is making sure I secure 4700 jobs, and that I get great new products that Australians will love to drive and that I keep people really focused on engineering the cars that we are currently engineering, which I’ve got to tell you is going to be an absolutely ripper.’’
Perry said that the union was misinforming people. ‘‘We are reviewing our options and it’s been a breach of trust in the union going and talking about those discussions and spreading misinformation,’’ Perry said.
‘‘No decisions have been taken about our future models, the general news isn’t as familiar with our products and the union have put out misinformation saying model year 2014 – that is absolutely not correct.
‘‘We have to look at what’s happening in the market, we have to look at environmental regulations, we have to look at co-investment policies and other regulatory issues,’’ Perry said. ‘‘So no decisions have been taken and it’s completely inappropriate [for the union] to go and talk to the media about those discussions.’’
Mike Devereux said decisions on where any cars due in 2017 or beyond would be produced had not been made, by Holden or other car makers.
The speculation adds to mounting fears about the long-term viability of the Australian car industry, which has been in decline for more than a decade and during which Mitsubishi shut down its local manufacturing operation.
Sales of locally made cars have roughly halved over the past decade and exports are under pressure with the high Australian dollar.
Us-based car makers Ford and General Motors are looking to consolidate their global operations and produce cars for the world rather than individual markets.
As part of the One Ford policy, the long-term future of the Ford Falcon is under a cloud.
Ford is expected to announce next year what will happen with the Falcon, with various scenarios still understood to be in play
COMMODORE WORRIES? Future of manufacturing under review.