General
Motors’ Australian affiliate Holden this week commissioned the first of
three automated body panel presses as part of the $A400 million expansion at
its Adelaide assembly plant, writes Mike Duffy.

The huge investment programme is designed to expand the plant’s capacity to
180,000 vehicles annually by 2008 – with half for export.

Holden’s ambitious target will create several hundred new car assembly jobs.

The car company is aggressively seeking new export markets to justify the increased
investment and capacity.

Two weeks ago, Holden announced it had shelved plans to introduced a third
shift following the Christmas shutdown after its distributors in the Middle
East cut orders for Chevrolet-badged Statesman cars by 2000 units for the remainder
of the year.

Next year’s orders from the Gulf region are yet to be confirmed.

The first press line, purchased from Daewoo International in Korea, represents
an investment of $A22 million.


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Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger said the company had
invested $A133 million at Elizabeth in the past year to boost future capacity.

Holden will spend $A2 billion in South Australia and Victoria over the next
five years to expand its range of products.

This includes the new V6 engine plant, currently under construction in Port
Melbourne.

“In our industry, the cost structure makes it essential to always run the
manufacturing plants at maximum output – in other words, to have a high
level of capacity utilisation,” Hanenberger said.

“This means that over the coming years we will have to increase our plant
capacity in carefully timed steps.

“We have already started doing this, having increased output from 547
to 580 vehicles per day over the past year.”

He said the new press lines would help achieve the production target of 180,000
cars per year.

“Not only will they assist in increasing capacity, they also will result
in improvements in quality and importantly, employee safety.”

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