THE Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A) has called on federal and state governments to help prolong the careers of GM Holden engineering staff made redundant and to capitalise on their experience as 100 leave the company’s Port Melbourne headquarters for the last time today.
The former Australian car-maker is in the midst of closing its entire operations and retiring the historic lion brand, with the last remnants of the globally recognised engineering and design divisions winding up over the next few weeks.
The remaining 100 Holden engineers, currently employed at the Lang Lang proving ground in South Gippsland, Victoria, will depart during August.
A number of engineers have found work with other car-makers and component suppliers, including several moving to the newly established VinFast technical centre in Melbourne.
However, SAE-A chairman and CEO Adrian Feeney today urged government to play a major role in preserving the engineering expertise built up by Holden over many years.
He also described the departing engineers as “a valuable and irreplaceable asset that must be preserved and put to use”.
“These engineers are a priceless brains trust that could launch right into a new automotive venture such as the electric police car project SAE-A announced this week,” he said.
The SAE-A has proposed a specialist vehicle manufacturing industry and this week revealed images of a police car based on an EV drivetrain and using composite body technology.
A feasibility study is being prepared to test the viability of a low-volume program that could be extended to other specialist vehicles such as ambulances and fire tenders.
Mr Feeney said the society was calling on federal and state governments to support the feasibility study to “save our engineering brains trust while we still have it”.
“The federal government has shown its willingness to support automotive initiatives with the recent Automotive Innovation Lab access grants administered by the minister for industry, science and technology, Karen Andrews,” he said.
“Added to that, prime minister Scott Morrison and treasurer Josh Frydenberg are clearly committed to rebuilding our post-COVID economy, and the car industry can be part of that.”
Mr Feeney said the SAE-A electric police car project had generated strong support from Australian automotive suppliers, from vehicle design to complete electric powertrains.
“All it needs is the political will and modest financial support to do a feasibility study and harness all the diverse capabilities we have on our doorstep,” he said.
“The Holden engineers are a world-class team, but their knowledge will soon be dissipated as they seek new jobs in other industries and other countries.
“SAE-A is ready to ramp up the police car project – all we need is a small amount of funding to make it happen, and we can have some solid answers within six months.
“With the government focused on building a clever, self-sufficient post-COVID Australia, we hope the Holden shutdown might be a catalyst for the start of something special, instead of the end.”