Holden, Toyota could seek further government funds

Two of Australia’s three car manufacturers, GM Holden and Toyota, yesterday admitted that they could seek further taxpayer assistance.

Two of Australia’s three car manufacturers, GM Holden and Toyota, yesterday admitted that they could seek further taxpayer assistance.

The Australian Financial Review, a frequent critic of subsidies to automotive manufacturers, reports that GMH and Toyota would look for more cash for engine plant upgrades and new car models respectively.

Manufacturers’ Monthly and others reported yesterday that Holden had expressed uncertainty over its Port Melbourne engine plant’s future. 

Its director of corporate and government affairs, Matt Hobbs, admitted the $275 million the company was promised last year in government funds may not sit well with everybody, but his company could seek more assistance if the plant is upgraded.

“It is the way automotive investment gets attracted to any country – there are either tariff barriers or there is co-investment,” he told the AFR.

The demand for more fuel efficient cars has seen reduced demand for the V6 engines made at the Port Melbourne facility, which exports 50,000 engines a year. Upgrading the facility to make other engines would be an expensive operation, admitted Holden chairman Mike Devereux yesterday.

Toyota, the top-selling company manufacturing cars in Australia, said that it would seek funding if it added to its line-up of Camry, Aurion on Camry Hybrid cars.

Earlier this morning, government backbencher Kelvin Thomson told Sky News that Australia would not manufacture cars without subsidies to auto makers.

“If we’re not prepared to engage we won’t have an automotive manufacturing industry in Australia and that’s a bad thing. Those jobs are worth fighting for.”

Yesterday the opposition admitted it was happy to make the future of subsidies to the car industry an election topic, promising a Productivity Commission inquiry into carmakers’ level of support.

"These stark policy differences between Labor and the coalition mean the 2013 election will be a referendum on the future of automotive manufacturing in Australia," said industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella.