Before reading this article it is important to note that the opinions expressed are from the sometimes twisted mind of our Lead Developer and are not necessarily the opinions of the National Vehicle Service Register.
Ford Australia have announced they will shut down local manufacturing plants in late 2016 and move production offshore. It is a trend that has been repeated many times in recent history across a range of industries.
Fords decision is a sad indictment on Australia and the direction our manufacturing sector has been taking for a number of years. There was a time when we built just about everything on our shores but recently we've seen a steady decline of iconic brands, locally built products, and the quality has gone down the drain. I would imagine that even the drain these businesses are going down isn't made in Australia either.
Is it a Government issue? Or, have unions been greedy by driving wages and conditions to a level which we simply cannot afforded? Perhaps consumers are to blame! We all demand the cheapest possible price and aren't willing to pay reasonable money for quality local products. The most obvious culprits are Management and the Board of Directors at Ford. Bad decisions quickly drive a thriving business into the ground, we've seen it recently with the destruction of Retravision (WA) through bad management, poor decisions by members of the Board, and not considering the greater good.
The Board of Directors at Ford need to put their hands up and say "Sorry Australia, we screwed up!".
The costs of doing business have risen, but provisions can be made and a plans should have been in place years ago - this situation hasn't arisen overnight, the signs have been there for a long time! An example of a poor decision was back in 1982 when some pen-pushing boof-head in the mail-room suggested dropping V8 engines from the lineup. How many customers did Ford lose to its rivals? It might have been seen as clever at the time but Ford effectively gift wrapped loyal V8 customers and delivered them to competitors. Very few of those loyal owners would have returned when Ford V8's were back on Australian roads.
That isn't what this article is about, it's about my little brain seeing something that others may not have already spotted. I've been wondering if Australian Motor Racing officials knew this was coming a long time ago and put a contingency plan in place to save the V8 Supercars.
Before you jump in and beat my head against a brick wall, give the following a bit of thought; Ford will remain as a competitive force in Australia but will an American or even Chinese built car have the same following as a locally built Aussie Muscle Car bearing the Ford badge? No, it wont and the Racing organisations knew that. They needed to find alternatives for people to follow and began planning the introduction of other manufacturers into the competition to fill the void they knew was coming..
According to Ford they will be increasing their range by 30% in 2016, and that is admirable, but today I'm not interested in girlie 4 cylinder cars! I'm talking about thumping V8 engines belting around our race tracks deafening children and frightening the seagulls.
When it comes to noisy V8 racing cars Ford fans would rather cheer another brand than fall into the Holden camp, that's just the way it has always been.
For many years the Australian V8 Supercars competition has had two competitors, Ford and Holden. What would happen if Ford disappeared or there were no Falcons? Would we enjoy our iconic Bathurst weekend watching only Holden Commodores going at it hammer & tongs? Of course we wouldn't, and if you said yes then I suggest a visit to a suitably qualified counselor.
My crazy theory is that the demise of Ford was foreseen by the boys & girls on top of the Motor Racing tree a long time ago. I have no proof and my reasoning might be skewed by a history of stupidity and mindless babbling, but isn't that what the Internet's about - people like me? I can mash my fingers on a keyboard and produce a jumble of words and let my spell checker take care of the rest.
Has anyone noticed that 2013 saw Nissan and Mercedes join the pack at the track? Was the timing coincidental or did big-wigs recognise an inherent problem created by having non-aussie Fords doing battle at Mount Panorama? So, they opened the playing field to all comers in preparation for Fords departure. A contingency plan was put in place, a plan that would save the town of Bathurst from potential financial ruin, would keep V8 Supercar enthusiasts amused for a while longer, and would cover up the impending failure of a motoring giant! Accordingly Ford were propped up with a taxpayer funded pile of cash and kept semi-viable long enough to to get the newcomers started.
Of course there will always be new Ford vehicles on our roads but they wont be locally built. Will die-hard Ford racing fans have the same enthusiasm for a foreigner? Perhaps where the car comes from isn't important, as long as there are Fords there will be Ford fans. Rivalry with Holden lovers will continue, the abuse and jovial snide remarks about which car is better will continue between these long term enemies.
We all know that the word Ford stands for Found On Road Dead and that Holden has always meant Hope Our Luck Doesn't End Now. In my opinion neither company have built a world class car for a long time, the XY GTHO Phase III was a world beater for Ford and the HQ or HK GTS Monaro were Holden's awesome offerings ( the GTR XU1 was a 6 cyl so it doesn't count). Both camps have made some great cars since those early triumphs but none can match the quality build or level of character of the older stuff. It will be interesting to see how well the VE Commodore fairs after 45 years, will it be a pile of rust in the backyard or a drivable collectors- item at the auctions?
Are Holden bosses rubbing their hands together and jumping for Joy right now? I don't think so! The writing is on the wall for them also and I reckon they are taking a good hard look at themselves right now. Market share for Holden is pretty good at the moment and that can be put down to smarter advertising rather than a better product. The reality is that the Commodore is just as good as the Falcon. An example of good advertising would be the Dyson ads we get bombarded with, as a result everyone wants a Dyson Vacuum Cleaner but a good Hoover will clean your carpets better! The Dyson ad is better and therefore everyone buys a Dyson.
Motor Vehicle technology has reached a point where both sides are just as good and the deciding factor is who has the coolest TV Advertisement and were you born into a Ford or Holden family.
The Australian Motor Industry has been a protected species for a long time and in receipt of various financial handouts. Ford should have died a long time ago but has been propped up by taxpayer dollars in an effort to save jobs, related industries and local economies. More people than just the employees will be hurt by the disappearance of Ford. 1200 employees probably equates to 3600 if you include their immediate families. What about the guys that build suspension components, the little gear knobs, and all the other bits that go into a car. Many thousands of people will suffer job loses and heartache over the next few years.
We'll all suffer in the long run and the fallout from the collapse of such an iconic brand will be felt long after 2016.
I didn't see Fords demise coming because my foresight abilities are limited, however my hindsight is often flawless.
This article is my own opinion and not that of the National Vehicle Service Register.
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