Aus­tralia ducks near dis­as­ter as clouds clear for car mak­ers

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By PAUL GOVER

WHEW. That was the re­ac­tion from a lot of peo­ple to the pos­i­tive re­sults in Detroit this week for Ford and Holden. It looks like Aus­tralia has ducked a po­ten­tial dis­as­ter on the glob­al­i­sa­tion front, avoid­ing the in­evitable cull as ma­jor car mak­ers ra­tio­nalise the num­ber of or­phan prod­ucts they serve up to cus­tomers around the world.

The Ford Fal­con and Holden Com­modore are unique to Aus­tralia and would never be ap­proved from scratch un­der to­day’s Detroit man­age­ment. They are built at fac­to­ries which are not even close to the break-even numbers for out­put in the rest of the world.

But they still make sense for a lot of Aus­tralians— de- spite a steady sales de­cline in re­cent years— and turn a profit for their com­pa­nies.

Now, thanks to in­tel­li­gent busi­ness plans by the brands and the com­mit­ment of Kim Carr — re­cently de­moted in the Gil­lard Govern­ment but still a fire­brand who gen­uinely ‘‘gets’’ the car in­dus­try— with a bag of Can­berra cash, they will live un­til at least 2016 and pos­si­bly a lot longer. At least in the case of the Com­modore.

By in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, the $103 mil­lion awarded to Ford is not a lot of money, but it’s enough to push the Fal­con and Ter­ri­tory through a ma­jor makeover that will keep them alive un­til 2016.

A sim­i­lar deal, or some­thing bet­ter, is now a fore­gone con­clu­sion for Holden. And that’s great news for any­one who sup­ports Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ing and thinks the coun­try needs to be more than just a gi­ant strip mine. It might not be a pop­u­lar po­si­tion — and lots of peo­ple ques­tion the amount of sup­port given to car mak­ing — but Mr Carr points out even min­ing and agri­cul­ture get some form of fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Fed­eral Govern­ment.

Apart from the var­i­ous fac­to­ries in Mel­bourne and Ade­laide, there are many smaller com­po­nent com­pa­nies who will cel­e­brate the good news for Ford and Holden, and lots of en­gi­neers who do other work for their global bosses who will still have the lo­cal foun­da­tion needed to en­sure they have a job in the fu­ture.

Aus­tralia is one of only 13 coun­tries in the world that is ca­pa­ble of do­ing every­thing in car mak­ing, from the first de­sign sketches through to fi­nal assem­bly.

Los­ing that ca­pa­bil­ity, or even deal­ing with a se­ri­ous threat to that ca­pa­bil­ity, would have been a dis­as­ter.

There has been a lot of gloom and plenty of uncer­tainty about Ford and the Fal­con in re­cent months, but just as the weather at this year’s Detroit auto show has been as un­sea­son­ably warm, so too the clouds over Broad­mead­ows have cleared.

Tues­day was eas­ily the best day in the re­cent his­tory of the Aus­tralian mo­tor in­dus­try and one that will go down in the his­tory books as a turn­ing point. Thank­fully, things have turned the right way for Ford and Holden, and also for Aus­tralia.

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