Ford's manufacturing future in Australia secure till 2016
The Ford Falcon will continue to be made in Victoria until at least 2016, with a $103 million production upgrade securing its immediate future and that of 3500 workers.
- Joel Cresswell
With the state and federal governments pitching in funds, US-based Ford is upgrading its flagship Falcon range after sales slumped by more than a third in 2011.
Acting Victorian Premier Peter Ryan said the announcement secured the immediate future of the Falcon and the 3500 jobs at Ford's Geelong and Broadmeadows plants.
"This secures the jobs that are here, but there was a concern about
particularly 300 jobs that were perhaps at risk because of design-related issues - now those jobs are secured," Ryan told reporters at the Geelong plant on Tuesday.
There has been ongoing speculation about the long-term future of the nation's car manufacturing industry but Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government is determined Australia will continue to make cars.
"We were told during the days of the global financial crisis that it was impossible that Australia would emerge with a car industry," she told reporters in Gatton in Queensland.
"We worked with Holden, we worked with Ford, we worked with Toyota and we came through.
"And we are one of the limited countries now ... where you can move from design to production, all the way across what makes a motor vehicle."
The Falcon and the Territory SUV will continue to be made at Geelong and Broadmeadows until at least the end of 2016.
The $103 million will be used to upgrade the models in a bid to revive sales following a shaky 2011 for Ford Australia with Falcon sales dropping by 36.5 per cent to 18,741.
Tyres, transmissions and body aerodynamics of the models will be changed and the CO2 footprint of the Falcon will be cut by 5.3 per cent.
The upgraded models will be launched in 2014.
Speaking at the Detroit Motor Show in the US, Ford Asia-Pacific president and chief executive Joe Hinrichs said the package was a sign of the company's commitment to the two models and its Australian business.
"In an unprecedented move for us we're talking about a product cycle ... that's beyond the next couple of years to provide some certainty," Hinrichs said.
But he would not offer any clarity beyond 2016.
Ford Australia's vice-president for manufacturing Alan Holly said the changes would make the vehicles a more attractive proposition for buyers while also providing direct employment for 300 people during the design and engineering phases.
"It will enhance the competitiveness and appeal of Falcon and Territory by reducing CO2 emissions," he said.
"In today's climate of uncertainty and change, a four-plus year pathway for any product is pretty good news."
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said the benefit of the investment stretched beyond the employees at the two factories.
"This announcement will also be of great importance to Ford's suppliers throughout Victoria and Australia who employ thousands of other Australians in the manufacturing industry," the union's acting secretary Mike Nicolaides said.
The federal government will provide $34 million but Ford and the state government would not specify their contributions.
Victorian opposition employment spokesman Tim Pallas said the package had provided comfort to Ford employees but challenged the state government to develop a plan to preserve the local car industry in the long term.
Source: AAP NewsWire