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Ford's exit strategy surprises ACT dealer

ACT Ford dealer John McGrath was surprised by the company's three year time-lag before exiting manufacturing in Australia.

ACT Ford dealer John McGrath was surprised by the company's three year time-lag before exiting manufacturing in Australia. Photo: Mal Fairclough

A Canberra Ford dealer says he is bewildered by the company's three-year time lag before it stops making cars in Australia.

Ford announced on Thursday that about 1200 workers will lose their jobs at two plants in Victoria by October 2016.

ACT dealer John McGrath said he was disappointed but not surprised, except for the timing. ''The 3½ years, I am bewildered,'' he said.

''Why give 3½ years notice? I don't understand that - I wouldn't mind an answer to that one myself.''

He said a short-term repercussion usually followed such announcements, but then everyone forgot about it. Mitsubishi, for example, took about seven weeks.

Mr McGrath said the Ford products that were selling well in Australia were imported, and the decision would not affect his dealership.

''Your Focus, Fiesta and Ranger, that's the product selling at the moment. The Falcon isn't selling. We're (selling) a quarter of what we were doing 10 years ago.

''As long as it doesn't affect branding of Ford, I don't see a problem because if it affects the branding it may make people make a decision on buying a Focus or not. That to me is more critical than losing the Falcon.''

The McGrath dealership employs more than 200 people, including 34 apprentices, and he expects the business to continue to be labour intensive well beyond 2016.

Mr McGrath said by then Ford would be more profitable and would be in a position to release more models. ''As a company they will be a lot stronger in Australia.''

He said although massive job losses had been forecast in the parts manufacturing business as well, these days most parts came from overseas.

The numbers of Falcons being sold now were fewer than models of Mitsubishi made in Australia when that car maker decided to stop production here.

Ford had long ago switched to a global target with its various models.

''The Focus is a worldwide car; it was only two or three weeks ago that the Focus was the number one selling car in the world,'' he said.

''The concept of an Australian-only car, the market just isn't big enough.

''There's over 60 manufacturers supplying cars into Australia.''

Mr McGrath said Australia had more choice of car models than any other country in the world.

''The Button car plan [named for former industry and commerce minister John Button] back in the 1980s was the start of the decline of manufacturing in Australia. The tariffs were replaced by government subsidy.

''Where everyone thought they were getting cheaper motor cars, the taxpayer was actually paying more because the government had to subsidise the industry to keep them going.

''All this about the Button car plan being a great thing - 'we're not paying so much for cars any more - it was just madness. Taxpayers were subsiding General Motors, Toyota and Ford for manufacturing in Australia.''

6 comments

  • I think the Australian market is big enough, the problem is that our Territory and State governments dont buy Australian. If you were to visit Germany or Japan I have no doubt they would only buy local.

    I have written to the Chief Minister on this matter and she advises they are reviewing this matter. I saw Klugers and Kias sporting ACT govt plates when those could have been Territorys and Cruzes.

    Why Australia chooses to play 'free' trade by itself while other major trading partners do not is a joke. Japan uses non-tariff barriers to make imports into that country near impossible. Germany and Sth Korea also have high tariffs and taxes on imports.

    Commenter
    jg
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    May 27, 2013, 8:58AM
    • Remembner jg that it is public money being spent on government cars, and the car manufacturers/suppliers tender to supply the vehicles at a price - the best price wins. While there may be an advantage in supporting 'local cars', this is outweighed by overspending on the local models which don't offer a competitive price. Also in the case of the Kias vs Cruze - the Cruze is thirstier, so the Kia's save more government money. Unfortunately, it's the way of a world trade policy.

      Commenter
      Dee2
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 10:09AM
      • Poor old Ford, its like watching someone die on cancer, with a slow and painful death, and I fear Holden is not to far down the track. With wages of Ford employees 2 to 3 times higher than those in a similar manufacturing industries and a 17.5% leave loading, and inflexibility in the work place no wonder they have left. In my opinion the unions have a lot to answer for, they are going to out price Australia, and it seems they wont be happy until we have double digit un employment.

        Commenter
        Martin Says
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        May 27, 2013, 11:01AM
        • Please, please consider this conspiracy theory.
          Ford have and for sure and for certain the General will follow this course of closure due to allegedly manufacturing larger vehicles Joe public does not made.
          Why, for many years now the massive shopping centres and suburban government shopping centre car parks have been getting due to increasingly narrower painted park areas.
          Now if this is not a conspiracy between said Asian vehicle manufacturers and the car park and shopping cetre conglomorates tell me what is.
          There is nothing wrong with the aussie product and for those of you who can remember many years ago Mr Fraser tried hard to get Joe public to trade their holdens and falcons on the Japanese vehicles of the day so its not new.

          Commenter
          NITRO GANGSTER
          Location
          ACT
          Date and time
          May 27, 2013, 12:33PM
          • If only for Defence purposes, Australia must retain expertise in vehicle manufacture. And, I assume that means building at least one (Holden?) here. I think John McGrath is having himself on: why would one buy a bloody bit of Yankee crap when there's no longer a patriotic motive - as was with the Falcon and by extension, the Focus, etc - and the Japanese cars, for example, leave them for dead?

            Commenter
            Eudaimonia
            Location
            Armidal, NSW (in transit)
            Date and time
            May 27, 2013, 12:56PM
            • We should take shared approach like the smart Germans Audi & Volswagen take. use a common engine/transmission mechanical platform across Ford/Holden/Toyota. with different bodies stamped out by the different manufacturers.

              Commenter
              Richierich
              Location
              canberra
              Date and time
              May 27, 2013, 1:24PM
              Comments are now closed
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