The Australian economy had traditionally shown enormous resilience to international conflict, but a lengthy war against Iraq would hit the local car industry, Ford Australia president Geoff Polites said on Friday, according to an AAP report carried in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Neither the Gulf War nor the Asian economy had had much impact on the domestic market, largely because of its tendency to focus internally, Polites reportedly said. “So if [the war] gets over and done with in a relatively short timeframe, then I don’t see any impact at all,” he told a Sydney business luncheon.

“[But] if it goes on for a long time and it gets into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad, then quite clearly there will be emotional involvement … and that will impact on the industry.”

According to AAP, Ford Australia exported only about 6,000 vehicles last year, mostly to New Zealand, and Polites said the company consequently did not face the same risks as Australia’s other major manufacturers.

Toyota, Holden and Mitsubishi are planning to ship a combined 95,000 vehicles to the Middle East this year. Those exports could be put on hold if hostilities close shipping routes, AAP said.

The report cited GM Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger saying this week that his company was still sending vehicles to the region on schedule and that the company would respond to events in the Middle East as they unfolded.

Polites said there had been no immediate increase in shipping costs as a result of the opening military strikes on Iraq, according to AAP.

In contrast to some US car makers who have cut second quarter output, Polites predicted an increase in Australian production because commercial production of Ford’s Falcon based 4WD Territory was scheduled to begin in the second quarter of next year, AAP said.