Holden has decided it will cease vehicle production as early as 2016, according to sources quoting senior government ministers.
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The ABC and The Australian both report that the car maker was poised to announce its decision to close its manufacturing operations this week, but has since postponed the announcement.

The Australian reports South Australian Government ministers and Opposition members were informed on Wednesday that an announcement from Holden was imminent, but were told hours later it had been delayed.

Federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane told both sources he spoke with Holden overnight and said the car maker denied the reports.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill told The Australian he believed federal government ministers were “briefing against their own colleagues, exposing deep divisions in the Liberal Party over the auto industry’s future”, and called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to intervene to stop the ongoing speculation that was damaging to Holden, its employees, and the wider industry.

Holden declined to “respond to speculation” in a statement last night, and said it would not comment on its future while its discussions with the government continued.

The Federal Government has effectively put a freeze on the signing of co-investment deals with car makers until after the release of the Productivity Commission’s review into Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry, due March 31.

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Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr has previously said the government could not afford to wait for the release of the review if it wanted to secure Holden’s future in Australia beyond its current funding agreement, which extends to 2016.

One source told the ABC Holden planned to cease local production within the next few years regardless of the government’s position and its offer of an assistance package.

Carr said last night he was not aware of any decision having been made by Holden at this stage.

According to the reports, Holden could pull out of the local manufacturing industry around the same time as Ford, which announced in May its decision to end vehicle production in Australia by October 2016.

Holden’s departure would almost certainly lead to the death of automotive manufacturing in Australia, with Toyota previously telling the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union it would find it “very difficult to continue to operate in this country” without Holden.

Toyota is itself poised to make a decision on its future by mid 2014, after it either wins approval to build the next-generation Camry from 2015 or decides to close its doors.

The Australian automotive manufacturing industry employs approximately 50,000 people directly and indirectly across Australia, predominantly in Victoria and South Australia.