‘We’ll demand Mitsubishi subsidies back’, says Premier

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‘We’ll demand Mitsubishi subsidies back’, says Premier

South Australian Premier Mike Rann says, if Mitsubishi closes its car manufacturing plant in Adelaide, he will demand the return of millions of dollars in taxpayer’s support for the company.

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South Australian Premier Mike Rann says, if Mitsubishi closes its car manufacturing plant in Adelaide, he will demand the return of millions of dollars in taxpayer’s support for the company.

One thousand jobs are directly threatened by the expected closure of the plant, with hundreds more in the vehicle components industry.

Announcement on future

Mitsubishi’s board is meeting in Tokyo today and an announcement on the future of the Australian operation is expected after the meeting.

Rann said this morning that the SA and Federal Governments have spent millions of dollars on subsidies for the car maker.

‘If they announce today the closure of Mitsubishi in total breach of the arrangements that they entered into ... and I have to say there are other things they entered into - they were going to set up an R&D centre to employ up to 300 engineers, develop a new luxury export vehicle, then I'll be asking for the money back, simple as that,’ Rann told Adelaide radio.

He said one project alone was worth $35 million.

The new Labor Federal Government will be furious if it turns out that Mitsubishi delayed a decision to close the plant until after the November election, thus bringing politics into it.

AMWU State Secretary John Camillo pleaded with Mitsubishi to tell the workers before the media if the plant was to be closed. Workers expressed their concerns when they arrived at the plant this morning.

Rann yesterday held talks with Mitsubishi Motors Australia chief executive Robert McEniry and spoke by phone to Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko.

Commercial decision

‘I’ve been told by Mitsubishi management that any decision will be solely a commercial decision, based on the viability of local manufacturing, as part of a global restructure of the company,’ he said.

Media reports in Tokyo overnight quoted three unnamed Mitsubishi officials as saying the plant would close, with production moved to China and Russia. One report said the Tonsley plant would close as early as next month.

Mitsubishi recorded a 20% per cent increase in sales to 65,397 vehicles in 2007, however, the increase was built on imported models, with the 380 only selling 10,942 units, a drop of 11.9% compared to 2006. The Tonsley production line is running far below capacity.

The launch of the 380 was meant to turn Mitsubishi’s Australian operations around; however, its release coincided with the spike in petrol prices and the market turning towards smaller cars.

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