An Illawarra Holden dealer is predicting a boom in Commodore sales as the company prepares to end 65 years of manufacturing in Australia and the cars take on a new collectable status.
Ashley Tory, part-owner of Wilsons Holden at Albion Park Rail, said the decision to phase out Australian production would likely have a negative impact on Holden sales for a short while, but this would be countered by demand from people wanting a piece of Australia's motoring folklore.
"Our Holden dealership has sold three Commodores just today with people wanting to keep them locked away for the future," Mr Tory, who is also director of Illawarra Toyota, said yesterday.
"I think the Commodores will be a collectors' item one day. Sales ... will boom knowing that it's an icon and these are the last ones."
Holden will phase out its Australian manufacturing by 2017, leading to almost 3000 job losses in South Australia and Victoria.
Mr Tory expects new Holden models will be made available to the Australian market in place of the Commodore, which accounts for one in seven sales at the Albion Park Rail dealership. Supply of the Cruze, which was already made offshore as well as in Australia, would remain, he said.
"Whilst it will be a bad time for Australia ... we will continue to sell cars and more than likely increase the range of Holdens for sale in Australia," Mr Tory said.
"We also need to get behind the Toyota plant and ensure they stay here and grow. We can't allow car manufacturing to finish forever in Australia.
"We build fantastic cars that suit our conditions. Not everyone wants to drive tiny cars around every day."
Focus shifted to the impact of the Holden shutdown on Australia's broader car-making industry, with Toyota - Australia's only other car manufacturer - warning its ability to make cars was now under "unprecedented pressure".
About 2500 workers at Toyota's Altona plant in Victoria will vote on a new workplace deal today.
Dave Smith, from the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, said auto workers were happy to work towards productivity improvements, provided they came with commitments about investment, as was the case at Holden.
"Toyota is really just trying it on," he said yesterday.
The firm had seen Holden make flexibility deals with its workers and wanted "a bit of the same".
"Toyota are trying to negotiate with its workforce by putting a gun to their head. This is unacceptable."
Treasurer Joe Hockey told Federal Parliament on Tuesday that if the Labor Party cared about the future of the car industry it would ring its "good mates at the AMWU" and tell them to accept the deal offered by Toyota.
Mr Smith said the difference between Holden's agreement and the Toyota offer was about $1 billion worth of investment.
"If Toyota is serious about staying in Australia it would be campaigning for the government to continue to support its local operations rather than attacking its loyal and committed workforce," he said.
"If you are asking your workers to reduce their conditions to keep your company in the country, you better be committed to the future."
Toyota has put in place a project known as the Toyota Australia Future Business Transformation for the period 2012 to 2018, aimed at improving efficiencies and cutting $3800 out of the cost of building a car in Australia.
The company says its new workplace agreement is about "improving flexibility and removing outdated and uncompetitive practices and allowances".
It will honour two scheduled pay rises in 2014, at a cost of $17 million, ahead of the new agreement starting in 2015.