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Ford big car production may bounce back, says boss


Monday's announcement that Ford would reduce output from its Broadmeadows plant was not an excuse for the company to cull its workforce, he said.

"It hasn't been determined that there need be any jobs cut," Mr Jones said. "Some voluntary redundancies are likely but we'll be working to see that anyone who needs a job can keep a job."

Ford workers would meet next week to approve the company's enterprise bargaining agreement and discuss the threat to jobs, Mr Jones said.

Co-ordinating rostered days off so that the plant could be shut down, taking accumulated leave and adopting a nine-day fortnight were all measures the union would be proposing to minimise actual job losses.

"We haven't even started talking with Ford about those yet," he said.

On Monday, Ford announced a slowdown of its assembly line to reduce output to 360 vehicles a day from 450.

It is the second time this year Ford has responded to falling demand for its Falcon large sedan and Territory SUV, after slowing output from 520 vehicles a day in February.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman said the company was looking at other cost-saving measures, but some jobs would have to go.

"We haven't announced numbers but I want to stress it is not a linear thing," Mr Gorman said. "If our production capacity is coming down 20 per cent the workforce reduction would not be similar. We're working through all our alternatives and not taking a slash and burn mentality.

"We are still evaluating all other cost reduction initiatives. It will take two or three weeks before we can finalise those and we aren't in a position to discuss them at the moment."

Ford's plan to develop and export the next model Falcon, due in 2008, would not be affected, Mr Gorman said. The business case for the car, codenamed Orion, had already been based on a smaller market share for locally made large cars, he said.

"When we look at our next round of models we've already adjusted. We had a certain set of assumptions for volume and we have adjusted those already.

"I don't think large cars will ever again be a 20 per cent plus segment. If it's in the neighbourhood of 15 per cent you have a marketplace where you can make something of it. Add exports and you have a viable business," he said.

The catalyst for the cuts came when large car sales did not recover as much as anticipated in August and September despite the arrival of the new VE Commodore and Toyota Camry.

Mr Gorman said Ford had been looking forward to the VE regenerating interest in the large car segment.

"When people get interested in a segment they go out and do comparative shopping — and that suits us because we've got a very competitive product," he said.

Large cars sales could still recover if petrol prices stabilised.

"I still think it's too early to say it's not going to bounce back. I don't know whether it's a residual effect of petrol prices. Clearly petrol prices have backed up quite a bit — which is good."