Ford Australia has announced that it will cease local vehicle production at the end of October 2016 leaving only Holden and Toyota to prop up the fragile Australian industry – provided of course that nothing happens to them in the meantime.
Declining sales of traditional large family cars, most notably of the Ford Falcon, together with the strong Australian dollar have been combining to put enormous pressure on the local industry. Losses by Ford Australia of $600 million over the past five years, including a $141 million deficit in the 2012 financial year have finally brought on a decision which had steadily become inevitable in recent years.
Strangely, given that Ford will continue with production of its next generation Falcon in 2014, the announcement of the closure came on the eve of the launch of the new Holden VF Commodore. Ford Australia President, Bob Graziano, explained the timing as a desire to immediately notify his employees of the situation as soon as the decision had been received from the company’s US head office.
Mr Graziano also announced that, because the Falcon nameplate is now so closely associated with Australia, it will be retired following the factory closures in 2016. A sad end for a once-great Aussie icon that has been such a part of our way of life for more the past 53 years.
While the Falcon will be missed so too will be the Territory SUV, one of Ford’s major recent successes which has also been built here.
No decisions have been made yet as to the future of Ford’s performance arm, FPV, or whether it will continue in motor sport although it’s hard to envisage either surviving without the Falcon.
The closure of Ford Australia’s two Melbourne-based factories, the Broadmeadow assembly plant and the Geelong engine factory are expected to make around 1200 position redundant. While Mr Graziano has made all the right noises about the company attempting to find work for these workers it’s hard to see many finding specialist places with either Holden or Toyota given the similar pressures to which these companies have been subjected.
The Victorian and Federal governments have promised to allocate a total of $39 million dollars towards the re-training of employees while Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said that her government will allow Ford to keep the $34-million grant previously given to it for new models in 2014.
On a further positive note the CEO Graziano has reinforced the company’s commitment to Australia with plans to expand the range of vehicles by nearly a third by the time of the plant closures in 2016.