The Federal Government has announced the appointment an automotive industry advocate whose primary task is to increase the number of Australian-made cars in local fleets.
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Former president of Ford Indonesia and past Ford Australia employee William Angove was today named the country’s first automotive supplier advocate. In the newly formed position, Angove will consult with Australia’s three vehicle manufacturers – Ford, Holden and Toyota – as well as fleet managers and state and local government departments in an effort to increase the percentage of locally produced cars in fleets.

Federal Minister for Industry and Innovation Greg Combet revealed that while almost three-quarters of all passenger vehicles purchased by the federal, South Australian and Victorian governments during 2011-2012 were made in Australia, the rest of the country lamentably lagged behind.

Australian-made vehicles accounted for just one in four purchased by the local government sector as a whole in the past financial year. Western Australia was the worst from a state government perspective, with just 30 per cent of new additions to its fleet produced down under, followed closely by the ACT (34 per cent), Northern Territory (36 per cent), Tasmania (37 per cent), Queensland (41 per cent) and New South Wales (44 per cent).

Combet hopes the creation of the new advocacy role will lead to a spike in purchases of Australian-made cars across all government departments, particularly those fleets where imported cars currently outnumber locally produced ones.

Despite being famous for its large six- and eight-cylinder family cars, Australia’s local fleet is today more diverse than it has been for a number of years, with fuel-efficient alternatives including the four-cylinder Ford Falcon EcoBoost, Ford Territory diesel, Holden Cruze small car and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Locally manufactured cars have struggled in the marketplace in 2012, however, with sales to private and non-private buyers decreasing 1.7 per cent as of the end of November. Toyota has been the shining light this year, with sales of its Camry and Aurion models up 22.4 per cent compared with 2011, while Ford (down 11.7 per cent) and Holden (down 5.5 per cent) have seen a drop in demand for their Australian-made cars, particularly the Falcon sedan (down 25.6 per cent) and the Commodore (25.0 per cent).

In a statement, Combet insisted the government was committed to securing the future of the automotive manufacturing industry in Australia.

“It is a strategically important sector, generating significant employment, investment, research and development, innovation and exports.”

The automotive supplier advocate role has been created as part of the government’s $35 million Automotive New Markets Initiative, of which $30 million will be directed towards assisting local automotive firms in diversifying their businesses by developing new products and securing new customers.

The announcement comes just hours after Toyota Australia officially opened its new engine plant in Altona – the result of a $330 million co-investment deal with the Federal and Victorian governments.