Full throt­tle

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad - Paul Gover

BOB Graziano may have the tough­est job in Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing. He has to de­fend Ford, and do it at a time when there are far more ques­tions than an­swers.

Ford Aus­tralia has plenty of in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment work and is re­cruit­ing en­gi­neers for Broad­mead­ows, but there is plenty of bad news — and ru­mours— cloud­ing the fu­ture.

Ford’s show­room re­sult in Jan­uary was mis­er­able. No one is sure if the lo­cally made Fal­con will con­tinue be­yond 2015.

There is talk of a re­badged Amer­i­can Tau­rus, a fail­ure once be­fore in Aus­tralia, to carry the Fal­con for­ward into a front-wheel-drive fu­ture.

And the Ter­ri­tory has been over­taken by Korean and Ja­panese ri­vals while Ford has dithered on ev­ery­thing from a diesel en­gine to qual­ity and de­sign im­prove­ments.

Graziano is the lat­est pres­i­dent of Ford Aus­tralia, a job that’s been a re­volv­ing door in re­cent years. He comes from China with an im­pres­sive track record at over­seas post­ings.

‘‘This coun­try is spe­cial, as we’re be­gin­ning to find out,’’ he tells me this week.

‘‘If you look at our to­tal busi­ness, and what the team has done over the past sev­eral years, they have done a tremen­dous job on build­ing a sus­tain­able busi­ness.

‘‘What I’m fo­cused on now is to add new tech­nolo­gies to this out­stand­ing plat­form.’’

But Graziano ducks the tough ques­tions, an­swers none of the spec­u­la­tion and gen­er­ally tries to give the im­pres­sion ev­ery­thing is fine at Broad­mead­ows. But it’s not. He’s even wear­ing rose-coloured classes on the sales disas­ter in Jan­uary, when the Fal­con was 13th on the list of Aus­tralia’s favourite cars.

‘‘If we de­con­struct Jan­uary, year on year, we saw very en­cour­ag­ing signs,’’ he says.

‘‘It was a best-ever month on Fi­esta, a good month on Fo­cus, Ter­ri­tory same, and the pri­vate buyer was very strong on Fal­con.’’

It’s not easy be­ing blue at the mo­ment, as Graziano will dis­cover. But what mat­ters is re­build­ing con­fi­dence in the fu­ture of Ford in Aus­tralia.

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