In what would be a major blow to the struggling industry, local media reported today that General Motors has decided to pull out of vehicle production in Australia as early as 2016.
Citing unnamed senior government sources, the Australian Broadcasting Corp said an announcement on the decision to close was supposed to have been made this week but had been put off until early next year. A GM spokesman in Detroit declined to comment on the reports.
Both Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and shadow minister Kim Carr said they understood no decision had been made. Australia’s auto industry has been under pressure for years as high costs, a strong local dollar, weak exports and tough international competition take a toll.
Both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and union officials called on Holden to inform the public of its plans.
“The message we are getting from Holden is they are in two minds and I would like them to clarify what their position is,” Abbott told local radio. “There is not going to be any extra money over and above the generous support taxpayers have been giving for some time,” he added.
The Australian automotive industry employs more than 50,000 people and supports 200,000 other manufacturing jobs. Any exit by Holden is likely to also affect the economies of scale at Toyota.
Holden, which claims a 10 % share of the Australian market, posted a Australian $153 million loss in 2012. It produced around 95,000 vehicles including its top selling Commodore and Cruze, with exports making up less than 14,000.
The automaker, which traces its roots in Australia to a saddle maker in 1856, makes vehicles at its Elizabeth plant in South Australia and engines in Port Melbourne, Victoria, employing almost 4,000 people.