Boss has faith in the Falcon
Ford promises that Australians’ skills will be put to good use, writes PAUL GOVER
THE top man in the Ford world has plenty to say. Alan Mulally hit Australia this week to lobby the Federal Government for support, to drive the latest Falcon, talk to Blue Oval workers and face a small group of journalists.
The Ford Motor Company president was relaxed and upbeat as he answered the tough questions, flanked by Ford Australia boss Bill Osborne and Asia-Pacific honcho John Parker. Here is some of what he had to say about the key issues for Ford Australia.
How healthy is Ford Australia?
‘‘I think it’s in, for where we are, a terrible business environment, I think it’s doing very well. I mean this is a tough, tough business environment right now worldwide.
‘‘Why would you assume we’re more vulnerable than some of our competition? One of our key competition has already gone on record that their export programs are unprofitable.’’
What is the future of the Falcon?
‘‘There’s always going to be that kind of product and we think we have a great vehicle with Falcon, and we’re going to continue to make sure we have a great vehicle.’’
Will it continue as an Australian car?
‘‘The expertise we have in larger vehicles in Australia will be utilised in Australia for as far in the future as I can see.’’
Will the Falcon continue with rear-wheel drive?
‘‘It will be driven by what the customer wants and values, and especially fuel economy and performance.’’
What about production rates for Falcon?
‘‘In the near term we’re going to match production to real demand, which means we can make fewer vehicles in the near term, but our commitment is to continue to invest in new vehicles for the future to what people really do want in value.’’
Why was the Falcon not exported to the Middle East?
‘‘Well, we don’t have a left-hand drive version of the Falcon . . . and frankly, in all honesty, the Middle East is a region I guess hasn’t been within Asia Pacific’s purview within our responsibility. It’s been handled through the US export market’’
‘‘The fact is, we don’t have a left-hand drive product for that market, other than the Crown Victoria. So it’s a significant investment to convert the Falcon to left-hand drive.
‘‘The Holden and Camry products were originally designed for left and right-hand drive, so there’s no incremental investment to enter into that market. For us to move Falcon into that market would be an incremental investment.’’
Why build the Focus in Australia?
‘‘We’re the first company to announce that we’re going to make a small to medium-sized car to supply the Australian market place. Everybody else is depending on large cars, which we all recognise is a segment of the market that will continue to shrink, whether it’s in Australia or globally.’’
‘‘We’ve recognised there are clear-cut consumer trends moving and we need to react to them, so we’re putting the car into manufacture as quickly as we can. We need to wait and make sure we’re bringing it in at the beginning of a cycle.’’
Why has it taken so long to adjust?
‘‘You can question why we didn’t do that some years ago, why weren’t we more foresighted, but this is where we are.
Doing well: Alan Mulally says Ford is performing in a tough business environment.