FACELESS MEN & WOMEN
REGIONAL AND GLOBAL PRODUCT PLANNERS; MANY AND VARIED COMPANIES
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.”