GM's Holden may exit Australia as early as 2016, reports say

A Chevrolet SS on the assembly line at a GM plant in Elizabeth, South Australia.

Photo credit: GM
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SYDNEY (Reuters) -- General Motors Co. has decided to pull out of vehicle production in Australia as early as 2016, local media reported, in what would be a major blow to the struggling industry.

Citing unnamed senior government sources, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said an announcement on the decision to close was supposed to have been made this week but had been put off until early next year.

A GM spokesman in Detroit declined to comment on the reports.

Both Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and shadow minister Kim Carr said they understood no decision had been made.

Australia's auto industry has been under pressure for years as high costs, a strong local dollar, weak exports and tough international competition take a toll.

It has been propped up by billions of dollars in government support, support that has become less certain since Tony Abbott's conservative government won power in September.

The Australian automotive industry employs more than 50,000 people and supports 200,000 other manufacturing jobs. Any exit by Holden is likely to affect the economies of scale at Toyota Motor Corp.

"This is an eco-system. If one goes, it's only a matter of time before the whole lot goes," Carr told reporters. 

In May, Ford Motor Co. will shut its two Australian auto plants in October 2016, following the exit of Mitsubishi Motors in 2008.

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