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Aussie-made Fords to finish in 2016

By Byron Mathioudakis, 23 May 2013 Industry

Ford, Australia, close, factories, employees, history

Ford’s Australian manufacturing operations to wind up in October 2016 as company announces new era of full-line importation.

FORD Motor Company announced today that it will cease manufacturing vehicles in Australia and become a full-line importer from October 2016. This means that the updated Falcon sedan, Falcon ute, and Territory due for release in 2014 will be the last domestic Fords built in Australia.

Besides the death of the iconic Falcon nameplate, the plant closures will also see a total of almost 1200 jobs lost – 650 in Broadmeadows and 510 in Geelong. But that figure is certain to multiply as suppliers of parts for these models throughout Australia also feel the effect of Ford’s decision.

According to Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano, the decision was finally made on the evening of Tuesday May 22, after an after-tax operating loss of $141 million in 2012, culminating in losses of around $600 million over the last five years for the local operations. “Manufacturing is not viable for Ford, in Australia, in the long term,” said Graziano.

However, Ford’s design and engineering facilities in Broadmeadows and Geelong will continue to operate beyond 2016, as will the You Yangs vehicle proving ground near Lara.

Despite the sad news, Ford has announced it will increase the size of its product line-up by 30 percent in the lead up to 2016’s withdrawal from local manufacturing.

This suggests that the next-generation Taurus, currently under development in America, will finally replace the Falcon as the company’s large-car contender from 2017, though Ford remains tight-lipped on future model details.

Similarly, the fate of the Territory nameplate is also up in the air, although there’s a chance it may continue as a future iteration of the US Explorer, also due in the latter half of this decade.

But the fate of the famous Falcon ute is likely to follow the 64-year-old nameplate into history, as Australians continue to buy one-tonne trucks like the locally developed Ranger pick-up in ever-increasing numbers.

The future of the FPV Ford Performance Vehicle sub-brand will almost certainly cease as well, as the existing Falcon range are the only cars using it.

Following the 2016 closure, Ford Australia’s presence “will remain significant”, with 1500 personnel and over 200 dealerships throughout the country supporting future Blue Oval models.

“We will continue to deliver the refreshed Falcon and Territory in 2014 as we have previously announced,” Graziano told a packed media conference at Ford Australia’s HQ in Broadmeadows this morning.

“The decision we have announced today was not made lightly. We understand the very real impact this will have.

“We came to this conclusion only after thoroughly reviewing our business and only after exhausting all other alternatives.

“But despite [efforts to match production with demand], our locally made products continue to not be profitable while our imported products are profitable.

“And we’re still faced with the fact that our cost structure in Australia remains uncompetitive… they are double that of Europe and nearly four times that of Asia.”

Ford began manufacturing the Model T in Geelong in 1925, and the US-derived Fairlane at an all-new facility in Broadmeadows in 1959. The original XK Falcon replaced the locally-made British Zephyr in 1960.