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by Daniel DeGasperi

There are renewed calls for clarity on automotive industry policy from both sides of government, with FCAI chief Tony Weber seeking answers from both sides of politics ahead of this year’s federal election.

“In this federal election year, both the importers and the local manufacturers are looking to the political parties to provide the policy certainty needed to maintain a competitive and innovative automotive industry in Australia,” said Weber at the announcement of total 2012 sales.

“We hope that there’s a commitment there that provides certainty for a long period of time for the automotive industry. What [we] need is clarity and certainty about the policy environment.”

Weber mostly echoed the call made in December by Holden managing director Mike Deveraux for both sides of politics to clearly state their position on local automotive policy. However, where Deveraux called for ‘bipartisanship’ on the issue, with a consensus to continue supporting the local automotive industry, Weber believes this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case, and that each party needs time to craft their policy.

“I think it’s only fair that in this environment, both the government and opposition are given the opportunity to actually think about what their policy position will be with respect to the automotive industry,” said Weber.

However the chamber boss stressed that both sides of government will need to “state [their position] before the 2013 election.”

Currently, both sides of politics have committed to honouring major co-investment deals – Holden will use its $275 million to develop two “fuel efficient” cars in Australia until 2022; Ford has committed to local production until at least 2016 on the back of a $103 million government partnership; and Toyota used $330 million to open its new hybrid engine plant in Melbourne. However beyond the next decade, the future of local manufacturing is undecided.

“We need that to move [policy decisions] forward because long term investment decisions need to be made about what models are actually introduced into this market,” claims Weber.

“I’m not sure that Australians are uncertain about [the future of] Australian built cars, but certainly you want that clarity … certainty is king.

“If there comes a degree of uncertainty, that can be self-fulfilling.”

Weber also went a step further, claiming that manufacturing isn’t the only clear policy stance missing from each side of government.

“[Government position needs to be clear] across a raft of issues, whether it be petrol standards, CO2, co-investment decisions … a whole raft of things.”