Aussie carmaking to return, British industrialist claims

Five years to the day after Ford said it would walk away from carmaking, Sanjeev Gupta claims Australia could again have a viable industry

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SANJEEV Gupta, the Indian-born British multimillionaire who tried to buy Holden’s now shuttered carmaking factory, has claimed Australia will be making cars again in the next few years.

Gupta told delegates attending the Australian Energy Storage Conference in Adelaide today – coincidentally it’s also the five-year anniversary of Ford Australia announcing it would quit manufacturing – which he believed the industry would soon be back on its feet.

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Australian Associated Press has reported that the industrialist, who has already flagged his intent to build a mass-market electric car, told the conference: “We will definitely in the next two or three years have a car production in Australia.”

No further context is provided.

Gupta heads up GFG Alliance, an investment company that bought out the Arrium Steelworks at Whyalla, saving the industry from closure and protecting the jobs of about 5500 workers. It is believed the steelworks were integral to Gupta’s more widely-held plans to kick-start vehicle manufacturing.

However, in January this year a deal being negotiated between GFG Alliance, the South Australian government and Holden was scuppered after failing to strike favour.

"Mr Gupta and the GFG Alliance already manufacture motor vehicles in the United Kingdom," now former South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis told the ABC as the talks were progressing.

"What Mr Gupta is realising, like the rest of the world, is that electric vehicles … are the way of the future.

"We think we can manufacture a number of high-tech goods [but] if we could get back into automotive manufacturing that would be great. Ultimately this is a question between Sanjeev Gupta and General Motors-Holden."

As it turns out, Holden’s owner, US carmaking giant GM, appears to have said no.

Half the former Holden site at Elizabeth in South Australia was bought by Melbourne-based development company Pelligra Group, which will develop it into a business park. Separate parts of the site will be retained by Holden, which will use it for several functions including spare parts storage, a conference and catering centre, and a museum to house its collection of culturally significant cars.

Holden is also slowly selling off its Elizabeth-based assets. The latest parts of the carmaking line to go up for sale to the highest bidder include the plastic injection moulding machines and robots that produced body parts for the VF II Commodore.

Gupta is tied in with Gordon Murray, a former F1 designer who plans to launch his own range of lightweight, affordable electric cars. Murray has even flagged his intention to build a battery-powered supercar.

Gupta’s optimism for reinvigorating Australia’s car manufacturing industry comes in the wake of Brabham Automotive announcing its ground-breaking BT62, a track-only race car, will be built in Adelaide and sold to the world.

 

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Barry Park
Journalist

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