Australian car making has a future but exports must improve: Abbott

Incoming prime minister Tony Abbott and Ian Macfarlane, the industry minister-to-be, have both backed the future of Australian car making.

Abbott has said that assistance to the auto sector would continue, but the performance of car makers must improve.

“I want the car industry in this country to have a long-term, viable future,” the ABC reports him as saying.

“I don’t want it to live from hand-to-mouth.

“There will continue to be a high level of assistance to the motor industry, but we expect the motor industry in return for that high level of assistance to provide us with a reasonable indication of how it is going to increase volumes, particularly export volumes.”

The Coalition has repeatedly said that it would reduce automotive funding by $500 million, with GM Holden’s managing director Mike Devereux arguing that any reduction in subsidies would see it end its manufacturing operations in Australia.

AAP reports that Macfarlane has already spoken with Holden’s Devereux, and, like Abbott, has mentioned that the future should involve increased exports.

“The goal is to be still building cars here well and truly into the 2020s and make sure that we’ve got a car that not only Australia wants to buy but also the world,” Macfarlane said.

The Abbott government combined with the car industry and hopefully with the unions as well will do everything we can to give the industry every chance of being here.”

Last week Holden announced that restructuring would continue and more staff would be cut, though it would not say how many, following 400 redundancies at the company’s Elizabeth plant in August.

The company’s workers also agreed to a three-year wages freeze last month in an effort to keep the car manufacturer viable.

“It is never easy to make changes like these but we have to take these steps to protect Holden’s long-term future in Australia,” read Holden’s statement on Friday.

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