World-class: Bill Osborne said he decided to push exports again after driving the new FG Falcon for the first time.
New Ford boss prepares to thrash out a new export plan
By JAMES STANFORD 10 April 2008
KNOWING that it must find more export markets to be competitive into the future, Ford Australia president Bill Osborne has revealed that the company is actively pursuing new export opportunities for the Falcon, including left-hand drive.
His export aspirations also include the Focus small car, which commences production in Australia in 2011.
Mr Osborne will outline his push for increased Ford Australia exports with Ford Motor Company global product development chief Derrick Kuzak, who will visit Australia on May 1.
“We are going to have some very open discussions, really about all kinds of future products. Large cars will be on the agenda as well,” Mr Osborne told GoAuto.
“I would say the purpose of the meeting would be to ensure we have the most robust strategy for Ford Australia going forward and I do believe that part of that strategy includes exports.”
Mr Osborne told us that Ford Australia was planning to export the Focus in both RHD and LHD form.
He added that Ford Australia was also looking to the FG Falcon for more export opportunities, even without the approval of a LHD program.
“Right now we have no capability to drive a left-hand drive car, however that ultimately doesn’t mean that we couldn’t export,” he said.
“There are still some right-hand drive markets around the world that we could potentially export to.”
Mr Osborne would not specify which right-hand drive markets the company would target, saying only that it would look at “a variety” of countries. GoAuto believes South Africa and England are on the list.
The additional sales in such markets could be valuable, but Mr Osborne admits there would be a limit to the volumes.
Left: Ford Focus.
“If we wanted to export in larger volumes we would need to invest in a left-hand drive version,” he said.
Mr Osborne said the new Falcon export plans were not far advanced, but were progressing.
“We are at the strategy stage. We haven’t put together a market equation yet to determine volumes – that is a bit further down the road,” he said.
“Part of what we are going to do, once we complete the launch, will be to ship a few vehicles back to the US for evaluation by the product development team.”
Mr Osborne said exports would be the key to a healthy future for Ford Australia, a different position to former president Tom Gorman who pushed the line that the company could do very well on just domestic (and New Zealand) sales.
“What I came to realise as soon as I landed is that the Australian market is about a million units, (but) the minimum efficient scale for a modern assembly plant is about 200,000 units (so) it is very difficult in this competitive market to have that kind of share of the industry with one product,” he said.
“So you either have to build multiple products or you have to sell into other markets and ultimately I think the best strategy for any manufacturer here is a bit of both.”
Ford Australia currently has a production capacity of 120,000, although it is not currently running at capacity.
Mr Osborne said that by producing more models and having a strong mix of exports and domestic sales would allow the company to react to economic conditions such as currency fluctuations.
“That is one reason I suggested that having flexibility in your strategy is important because currency fluctuation is always going to be an issue. But if you have a flexible strategy you can shift your production to a different segment of product or presumably if your currency is extremely strong your consumers have greater spending power. So theoretically you should be able to shift more production to domestic,” he said.
Mr Osborne said he decided to launch a new drive for Falcon exports after driving the cars for the first time earlier this year. He said the car would qualify as world-class in any market.
“I wouldn’t even encourage those kinds of decisions if I didn’t think it was a product that met world-class standards,” he said.