The road back to Detroit
IF you don’t follow orders at Ford Australia, you can pay a high price. Few people remember an American called John Ogden, who was briefly in the top job at Broadmeadows in the early 1990s.
Part of his brief from Detroit as company president was to shut the Falcon factory, which was considered marginal on profitability even then. But he was talked around by local management and workers, who proved to him that there was no future for an imported frontwheel drive replacement for the locally built Falcon.
Ogden returned early to Detroit and his career was effectively done.
Fast forward to 2015 and we’ve just seen Bob Graziano, pictured, packing his bag for Detroit and early retirement, at only 55, from Ford Motor Company.
Yet Graziano, one of the most honourable company chiefs in the company’s local history, had promised himself, his workers and the people of Australia many times that he would stay until the day the final Falcon rolled down the production line at Broadmeadows. He even extended his stay in Australia to ensure he would be here.
His departure is noted as a personal decision. It’s true he plans to do volunteer work in Africa as part of his retirement. But there is another story, with parallels to Odgen’s end.
A well-placed source says Detroit is not happy with local sales numbers and wants an earlier end to production. Graziano was told to shut the factory but refused, and was then given a week to accept the early retirement deal.
Officially, Ford Australia has nothing to say on the subject. “We are on track for our manufacturing transition in October 2016. We cannot comment (on) any other speculation,” says company spokesman Wesley Sherwood.
Which is the real story? We’ll know in about 18 months. But remember, history often repeats.