The union representing Australia’s engineers fears the next Holden Commodore will be the last one designed and engineered in Australia.
The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers (APESMA) says at this stage it looks like the Commodore – an Australian icon for 33 years and Australia’s best selling car for the past 15 years – will be replaced by a front-wheel drive medium car before the end of the decade.
APESMA chief executive Chris Walton described the impending shift to overseas design and engineering of the Commodore as a “disaster” for the local industry.
“Senior management have confirmed to APESMA that it is highly likely that the 2014 Commodore will be the last one engineered in Australia,” Mr Walton told ABC News.
He said Holden and parent company General Motors were considering the shift to a global vehicle architecture and overseas engineering and design work for the Commodore-after-next.
“Unfortunately, we think it is highly likely they are going to make this decision.”
Mr Walton said as many as 350 jobs could be lost from GM Holden’s Fisherman’s Bend facility in Port Melbourne if Commodore development was shifted overseas, and insisted the flow-on effects could threaten thousands of local manufacturing and supplier jobs.
Holden says it has not yet finalised its decisions about future design and engineering work on the vehicle that will replace the 2014 Commodore.
“The issues being raised in the media today relate to decisions for the new products which Australians won’t see until closer to the end of the decade.
“We have been very open with our employees, unions, media and government about some of the options and the challenges we face in the local market, in terms of global competition for capital investment and the regulatory environment.
“But what we don’t do is comment on our EBA negotiations in the media, nor do we speculate about very long-term future models, and we certainly don’t intend to give our global competitors a free kick.”
GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux told ABC radio said the future of the 2014 Commodore is not in doubt.
“The next generation Commodore is an Australian car. We engineered and designed it in Port Melbourne. We’re going to build it in Adelaide,” Mr Devereux said.
“The Commodore is 100 per cent designed, engineered, manufactured in Australia today and the next Commodore 100 per cent designed, engineered, manufactured in Australia for many, many, many more years.”
Mr Devereux admitted the Australian automotive industry was a complex one, but he said Holden intended to be a big part of it beyond 2014.
“It is difficult today to do things in Australia, to continue to manufacture things in Australia with the economic and political climate that we’ve got, and we at Holden fight every single day for the right to continue to do the three things that we do here … design, build and engineer cars,” he said.
“There is definitely a role for Australia in the long term plan.”
Federal Industry Minister Kim Carr told the ABC’s AM that the Government expects the Commodore to be built in Australia until at least 2014, but admitted the future was less clear beyond there.
“This industry … is capital intensive, decisions are made on a long-term basis,” Mr Carr said. “We are in the process of discussion about these questions.”
Mr Walton told ABC News he did not believe Australians would accept a foreign-designed and -engineered Commodore as their own.
“I think Holden is likely to say that because a car is still bolted together in Australia, they may try and still argue that they are producing an Australian car,” he said.
“That would be simply conning the Australian community.”