Wheels (Australia) - - Head To Head -

WHILE we mull over a list of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in Aus­tralia, the re­al­ity is that of the real power now re­sides off-shore. With the col­lapse of the lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, there are few Aus­tralian ex­ec­u­tives that truly have in­flu­ence over what they sell lo­cally.

For the most part, the key de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the ve­hi­cles we get, we don’t get, the equip­ment they are fit­ted with and the price they are sell­ing at, are made over­seas.

The main ne­go­ti­at­ing in­flu­ence the lo­cals have is over the num­ber they are ex­pected to sell. Over-es­ti­mate and stand by for a lot of cars with grass be­neath them (Nis­san Pul­sar, any­one?), be­cause the fac­tory just keeps churn­ing out the sausages.

Aus­tralia misses out on a lot of ve­hi­cles be­cause of its frag­mented mar­ket. Cost-con­scious – and ca­reer-con­scious – re­gional bosses are hard to con­vince when the mar­gins are fine. Think of the Ford Mus­tang as a punt that worked; the re­peat­edly failed Chev Ca­maro right-hand-drive pro­gram as one where brav­ery went miss­ing. Of course, now that the vast ma­jor­ity of the world drives on the left-hand side of the road, the Aussie business case be­comes all the harder. “It would be wrong to as­sume that lo­cal MDS and ex­ec­u­tives have to­tal con­trol over their prod­uct and spec­i­fi­ca­tion of­fer­ings,” says a Wheels source, who has seen the whole process up close. “In fact, in many cases it is rel­a­tively low-level ex­ec­u­tives with lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of our mar­ket that some­times hold the fu­ture suc­cess of brands in this mar­ket in their hands. “Many a lo­cal MD has gone stark rav­ing mad hav­ing to deal with this re­al­ity.”

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