Ford’s twin peaks
THE unveiling this week of the Ford Everest signals a new chapter in the Australian automotive industry.
Our car assembly lines will fall silent by the end of 2017 but Australia will still be a big exporter of automotive engineering and design talent.
The Everest (pictured) will be the first Australian-designed and engineered vehicle to be manufactured in China (it’s a global vehicle, so examples sold here will come from the same factory in Thailand that makes the Ranger ute).
Ford employs more engineers and designers than it does factory workers, about 1100 all told. Once manufacturing ends, it’ll be Australia’s biggest employer of automotive engineers and designers.
Ford tried to build a business case to make the Ranger ute and twin under the skin, the Everest, at Broadmeadows instead of the Territory and Falcon.
But our high wages and fixed costs (electricity and transport) made it uneconomical. The strong Australian dollar also made exports unviable — yet they were needed to boost production volumes.
That’s why we can expect to see more cars and SUVs to come from our neighbouring Asian countries with low-cost wages.
Almost every ute on sale in Australia comes to us from Thailand and now the Land of Smiles is turning out family-size seven-seater SUVs.
As heavy duty 4WDs such as Toyota’s Prado and LandCruiser have become more expensive, a market has emerged beneath them.
Presumably that’s why Toyota is planning to reintroduce the 4Runner which will take the global name, Fortuner, and have seven seats.
There is a flood of cheap imported cars because Australians want it both ways: high wages and cheap cars. That’s what led to the pain of thousands of car workers losing their jobs in manufacturing.