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The current economic climate, across the world and in Australia, would “inevitably” lead to job losses in the Australian car industry, something that “kept him awake at night”, the managing director of GM Holden, Mark Reuss, has told a conference in Melbourne.

Mr Reuss, speaking to the National Fleet Conference, said “at Holden, we’re looking at every piece of our business and how it fits into the Holden of tomorrow.”

He said that in the short term that meant making tough decisions in the coming weeks and months and that inevitably that environment would result in job losses across the industry.

Mr Reuss said; “That’s incredibly difficult for everyone involved and it’s a situation we’re treating with the utmost care and respect.

“Job losses, whether they’re voluntary or involuntary redundancies are personal tragedies for those affected and as a managing director it’s a situation that keeps you awake at night.”

2008 Australian International Motor Show

In the clearest signs to date of what the future holds, not just for GM Holden, Mr Reuss said; “I wish we could carry the entire workforce through this period, but unfortunately these decisions will be necessary for our industry to overcome difficult times and be successful in the future.”

GM Holden - Elizabeth, S.A.

“We’re operating in a climate where local car sales are dropping on average by 20 per cent a month, while in Europe and the US the markets have been down by as much as 50 per cent. By any measure these are extraordinary numbers.”

On a positive note Mr Reuss said the future was about reinvention.

“We can get through this, and we can emerge stronger than we have been before, but to do that we have to take a realistic view of the world.

Holden WM Manufacturing - Body Shop, Elizabeth S.A.

“We need to approach these challenging times to structure the industry in a way that is sustainable.”

He also praised the Australian workforce saying; “In the 12 months that I’ve been here, I’ve come to understand and appreciate just what makes this country great and the importance of local industry.”

“When times are tough, it’s easy for many people to forget the things that have made this industry what it is. The talent and capability in Australia is enormous.”

Mr Reuss added that companies that make the most realistic market assessments and structure themselves accordingly have a great chance of success when industry growth resumes.

GM Holden's small car conceptual design

He said that the key to success would be innovation and an eye for using less foreign oil, either by increasing efficiency or replacing it altogether with Australian energy alternatives.

That meant developing more alternative fuel and fuel saving technologies than any other time in our history, adding that there were many solutions to that challenge, not one easy fix.

He added that this meant improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, while at the same time developing other fuel strategies such as hybrid and electric power.

Holden VE Omega Sportwagon 2008

Mr Reuss also praised the Federal Government’s New Car Plan and the support given by governments in Victoria and South Australia and added that this recognised the fact that the automotive industry in Australia played an important role, supporting 64,000 families through $5 billion in annual wages.

Acknowledging his audience, which he said represented about 60 per cent of sales, he said it was important that the government had offered business a tax incentive that allowed 30 per cent deductibility for any new cars purchased for business use before June 30.