GM Holden Ltd. has “very ambitious and exciting” plans for its future, South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley tells the state parliament, saying he has been briefed on the plans by the auto maker.

Foley spoke after federal Industry Minister Kim Carr visited Adelaide, the state capital, to tell auto industry officials that, despite its rapidly deteriorating financial position, General Motors Corp. wants to maintain its Australian manufacturing operation, which employs about 3,400 people.

Carr tells reporters GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner is positive about the future of GM Holden’s plant in Elizabeth in northern Adelaide.

“He has made the point very, very clear to me, how important it is we not only keep plants of this quality within the GM family, but also that we have a very strong supply base to ensure the ongoing prosperity of the company here in Australia,” the Associated Press quotes Carr as saying.

Foley, meantime, says he was unable to meet Wagoner during a recent visit to the U.S.

“I was in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, and I spent an hour with (GM Holden Chairman Mark Reuss) who briefed me on the very ambitious and exciting plans that General Motors has for its future, what it involves and what the financial requirements and commitments will need to be,” Foley says, according to the parliamentary record.

He says he asked to meet with Wagoner but was told GM senior management was “preoccupied with matters of survival.”

“I will be back in the U.S. in January, and the intention is to meet with senior people at that time,” he says. “It is clear that the Bush Admin., the Congress and the Obama Admin. will not see the American car industry fail, just as the Rudd Government here will not see the car industry fail – and for South Australia that is good news.”

Foley says GM Holden is high on his agenda.

“Barely a week goes by when we are not in some form of contact, either at departmental or ministerial level, with Holden,” he says. “We are doing all we can as a government.”

Meantime, the Australian Mfg. Workers Union (AMWU) says GM Holden plans more production shutdowns, after extending its holiday shutdown to five weeks from Dec. 11 until Jan. 14.

AMWU Vehicle Div. National Secretary Ian Jones says GM Holden signaled further extending the shutdown in recent discussions with the union.

“They indicated there would be more downtime into the next year,” he tells The Australian newspaper. “They said they are examining it.”

The newspaper says GM Holden refuses to confirm or deny the plan.

“We’ve not yet set our 2009 production schedule,” a spokesman is quoted as saying. “We’ll be looking to do so as soon as possible.”

Elsewhere, Ford Motor Co. Australia Ltd. has succeeded in obtaining about 800 voluntary separations from its two plants in Victoria. The workers are receiving four weeks’ notice, 3.1 weeks’ pay for each year of service and A$1,000 ($656) for each year worked.

Ford Australia reportedly is considering two production down days in early December and also is mulling extending its Christmas shutdown to five weeks from four.

On another front, the Melbourne Age reports car dealers are asking the federal government to impose a A$10 ($6.56) levy on each new vehicle sold in Australia to pay for emergency measures to help them secure the financing they need.

Under the proposal, the government would underwrite loans by Australian banks to car dealers by providing guarantees and would be compensated for the risks it was assuming under such a scheme by the $10 levy.

The newspaper says the plan was discussed in meetings between the automotive industry and government officials on a task force working on solutions for wholesale financing for dealers.

The task force was formed after two of the country’s largest vehicle-financing firms, GMAC Financial Services LLC and GE Capital Finance Australasia Pty Ltd., announced they will quit the business by year’s end.

The New South Wales Motor Trades Assn. reportedly says if dealers are unable to find alternative financing by next month, they will be unable to stock their showrooms and forced to close.