Australian car manufacturing ends as GM Holden closes plant

The last mass-produced car designed and built in Australia rolled off General Motors’s production line in the industrial city of Adelaide on Friday, October 20. Above, the company’s Adelaide plant. (General Motors Holden via AP)
Updated 20 October 2017
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Australian car manufacturing ends as GM Holden closes plant

SYDNEY: Australia’s near 100-year automotive industry ended on Friday as GM Holden, a unit of US carmaker General Motors, closed its plant in South Australia to move manufacturing to cheaper locations.
The closure comes a year after Toyota and Ford similarly moved out, eliminating thousands of manufacturing jobs. It adds pressure on the government to help those made redundant find work in a battleground state ahead of a federal election in 18 months.
“The end of Holden making cars in Australia is a very sad day for the workers and for every Australian. It is the end of an era,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters at a regular briefing on Friday. “Everyone has a Holden story.”
Turnbull has sought to soften the impact of a declining automotive industry in a state which historically determines who forms government by making South Australia a defense industry hub.
The government plans to increase defense spending by nearly A$30 billion by 2022, with the manufacture of a fleet of frigates, armored personnel carriers and submarines to be concentrated in South Australia.
But John Camillo, ‎state secretary at Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union in South Australia, said nearly 2,500 newly unemployed will need government help finding work.
“They need to be retrained to be able to work in defense, mining, aerospace, because we are going to be building ships,” Camillo told reporters outside the GM Holden plant in Elizabeth, 26 kilometers north of state capital Adelaide.
Camillo was joined outside the factory by hundreds of workers and car enthusiasts who had gathered to greet the last car off the production line.
Rising discretionary income and record-low interest rates have encouraged consumers to buy new cars, but many turned against the large passenger cars for which GM Holden is known.
“Consumers want fuel-efficient small cars and sports utility vehicles (SUVs), and overseas manufacturers have been able to profit from changing tastes,” William McGregor, industry analyst at ‎IBISWorld, told Reuters.
Monthly SUV sales hit a record in June, surpassing 40,000 cars, Bureau of Statistics data showed.
GM Holden, whose SUV range proved unpopular with Australians, will shift production to Germany where advanced automation will help keep costs low as it revamps its lineup.
GM Holden began auto production in 1948 with then-Prime Minister Ben Chifley driving the first car off the production line, declaring it “a beauty.”
“I have bought four of them,” said Shane Oliver, an AMP Capital economist who described the closure as a “sad day.”
“But it’s clear that not enough Australians’ agreed, opting for foreign-made SUVs instead.”


Oil edges up on looming Iran sanctions, but US-China trade war caps gains

Updated 2 min 50 sec ago
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Oil edges up on looming Iran sanctions, but US-China trade war caps gains

  • Other producers may struggle to fully make up for the expected fall in Iranian supply
  • But overall global oil supply was currently enough to meet demand
SINGAPORE: Oil prices edged up on Monday, as markets were expected to tighten once US sanctions against Iran’s crude exports are implemented next month.
Front-month Brent crude oil futures were trading at $79.88 a barrel at 0248 GMT, 10 cents above their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $69.31 a barrel, 19 cents above their last settlement.
Also in the United States, Intercontinental Exchange said its new Permian West Texas Intermediate crude futures contract deliverable in Houston, Texas, will begin trading on Monday.
The main price driver in Asia on Monday was the looming start of US sanctions against Iran’s oil exports, which will start on November 4.
While the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed in June to boost supply to make up for expected Iran disruptions, an internal document reviewed by Reuters suggested that OPEC is struggling to add barrels to the market as an increase in Saudi Arabian supply was offset by declines in Iran, Venezuela and Angola.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said on Monday that other producers may struggle to fully make up for the expected fall in Iranian supply, and that coupled with strong demand, oil prices could rise further.
Traders said major oil consumers were stockpiling in anticipation of more disruptions.
“In China, higher seasonal demand and suspected stockpiling are occurring, while similarly the US and the OECD continue building stockpiles ahead of potential supply disruptions this winter,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.
Despite this, Innes said overall global oil supply was currently enough to meet demand.
There were also some signs of rising output, especially in North America.
US drillers added four oil rigs in the week to Oct. 19, bringing the total count to 873, Baker Hughes energy services firm said on Friday, raising the rig count to the highest level since March 2015.
The US rig count is an early indicator of future output. With activity rising again after months of stagnation, US crude production is also expected to continue to rise.
Looking further out, concern that the trade dispute between the United States and China would crimp economic growth may weigh on the outlook for oil prices.
“The full impact of the US-China trade war will hit markets in 2019 and could act as a considerable drag on oil demand next year, raising the possibility of the market returning to surplus,” said Emirates NBD bank in a note.
Shipping brokerage Eastport said on Monday that “Chinese manufacturing is beginning to slow” and that “Trump’s proposal of slapping ... tariffs on additional ... Chinese goods from 1 January would be a further drag on trade.”