The head of Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) says, while the end of local manufacturing in Australia is a loss, it's part of wider industry changes that, with the right mindset, represent opportunities.
Speaking to CarAdvice this week, HSV managing director Tim Jackson said the factors behind the wind up of local production – first Ford, soon Holden, and then finally Toyota – aren’t merely confined to Australia. In fact, Jackson said, they signal a chance for the industry to adapt and improve.
“I think Holden and GM have made the decision to exit, and I will not proffer an opinion on whether that’s right or wrong, or whether I think it’s good or bad,” Jackson began.
“I think it’s part of change in the auto industry. And while we might look at Australia as a microcosm of that change, if you step over that, and you think about even greater changes that are going on – in terms of driverless technologies, in terms of powertrain, in terms of ride sharing and ownership of vehicles and those sorts of things – there are a lot of profound changes going on, and all companies need to be ready and be dealing with those changes.”
Noting that the Australian industry is home to “some specific changes”, Jackson said: “It is what it is.”
“And at HSV, we have to be willing to transform and change faster than what’s going on in the industry around us – we have to be able to do that. And we’re fortunate, in many respects, that we can leverage off a really big original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and all its capabilities.
“But what makes us unique, is our ability to pick those things and integrate those things, but integrate them efficiently, and effectively, and quickly, to get good product into the marketplace.
“And I think, while we might say, ‘It’s a shame Australia isn’t producing cars anymore’ – and I think there’s a sense of the reality of the finality of it as it’s coming – at the end of day, it represents opportunity as well.
In 2014, a report commissioned by the Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre suggested the economic cost of Ford, Holden, and Toyota all ceasing local manufacturing could add up to $29 billion, and encompass the loss of 200,000 jobs.
The same report also forecast a potential cost to the economy of two per cent of national GDP by the end of this year.
Jackson is clearly determined that, at least in his corner of the industry, the coming changes will not dramatically affect business.
“If you want to look at it on a negative sense and say, ‘That’s sad and disappointing’, then you can get caught up in that mindset," he said. "You have to look at it from, ‘Okay, what opportunities does it present?’.
“And I think, from an HSV perspective, it’s forced us to think: Well actually, what are we good at? What do we do? Let’s not just define our capabilities in a very narrow product sense. And how do we broaden that horizon and scope of what we might do?
“I think it does present us opportunities, but you’ve got to adopt the mindset of, ‘That’s a great opportunity’, not, ‘Oh, well that’s disappointing, that’s not happening anymore’.
“But as I say, I don’t proffer an opinion on whether it’s good or bad. It is what it is and our job is to change faster than what the environment’s changing around us.”