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Ford posts record loss

So far this year Falcon sales are down 30 per cent on 2011.

It's the worst ever result for the troubled local carmaker. Ford, whose iconic Falcon sedan continues to plunge in the sales charts, had an operating loss in 2011 of $78 million. 

Ford Australia chief financial officer Mark Rearick blamed the after-tax hit on a one-off $212 million tax impairment related to "tax losses generated in the current year and carried forward from prior years".

"The operating loss is primarily explained by one-off costs associated with a restructure of the Ford Australia business, a continued industry-wide decline in the sale of large vehicles, and vehicle supply issues for both Ranger and Fiesta as a result of the Thailand floods," Mr Rearick said.

The company retrenched 250 workers at its Broadmeadows factory last year and reduced production to 209 vehicles a day to clear a backlog that had at one point filled the factory's grounds with unwanted vehicles. 

Ford's previous worst result was in the global financial crisis of 2008, when it took a $274 million after-tax loss. Ford's announcement of the 2011 result came two days after chief rival Holden announced a $89.7 million profit for 2011, down from $112 million the previous year.

Critics have pointed out that the Holden profit is roughly equivalent to the amount of Federal Government funding the carmaker received during the year. However Holden's chief financial officer, George Kapitelli, has said the two figures are "a coincidence''.

Ford last year received $102 million from the Federal Government's Automotive Transformation Scheme -- almost the sum it invested in the locally made Territory and Falcon. The latter has just been released in its first four-cylinder engine version. 

Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano said the Falcon, the great majority of which are sold to fleets, would once more be viable to those which "have a policy of  four cylinder vehicles only".

So far this year, Falcon sales are down 30 per cent on 2011. The Territory and Falcon were outsold again last month by the Focus small car, which is imported expensively from Germany. Mr Rearwick said the relocation of production in Thailand in a few months would lower operating costs.

Mr Graziano said Ford last year updated 85 per cet of its lineup and had "walked away from unprofitable" areas of its business. "We're confident we're making the right decisions, albeit tough ones, for the future of our business," he said.