Ford’s twin peaks

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter @Joshua Dowling

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.

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