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Ford  Bill Ford: Boldly preparing Ford’s North American business for global competition.

Bill Ford: Boldly preparing Ford’s North American business for global competition.

Savage job cuts at Ford in the US will not impact on Australia - for the time being

THE Ford Motor Company’s announcement last week that it will cut up to 30,000 jobs and close 14 plants in North America in a bid to restore profitability will not affect Australian manufacturing operations, according to Ford Australia.

A company spokesperson said it was "business as usual" for the time being and too early to tell what impact specific actions outlined in its parent company’s "Way Forward" plan would have on the Australian operation.

Coming two months after General Motors announced similar savage cuts and just days after the federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Australian components suppliers made representations to Ford and GM top brass in Detroit, the plan commits to greater components sharing and to using more global vehicle platforms, particularly for cars and crossover vehicles.

Ford Australia refused to speculate whether this now shuts the door Mr Macfarlane proclaimed earlier this week to have opened for Australian parts makers, or whether it will impact on the architecture underpinning the forthcoming new-generation Falcon due in 2007.

The spokesperson also said no jobs would be lost in Australia as a result of this week’s announcement.

"The ‘Way Forward’ is a US plan only to tackle issues they have in North America and as far as we’re concerned it is business as usual," she said.

"It’s a bit early to tell in terms of what opportunities might arise from it.

"I don’t think this is a closing of the door (for Australian parts suppliers) – but they have to be able to compete. If they’re the right supplier with the right product and the right quality, the right deliverables and the right price, then they’ll be looked at.

"Ford has to get better at innovating and tying up quite closely with some key suppliers – and suppliers anywhere, if they can prove themselves to be innovative, creative and deliver quality products on time, will be looked at."

A reduction in stand-alone platforms and greater emphasis on using global vehicle architectures was also seen as having more relevance to manufacturing in North America than Australia.

"Ford North America is only starting to get in to that (global platform sharing) now, so my understanding of that part of the announcement is … using those shared technologies that the rest of the company has on a global scale for synergies across the world," the spokesperson said.

"The next Falcon will be a Falcon as we know it – but in terms of what the company is looking for with global synergies and everything could mean for us, it is far too early to speculate."

Designed by former Mazda chief and now ord’s president of the Americas, Mark Fields, the "Way Forward" plan called for the closure of seven assembly plants, seven parts plants and the cutting of between 25,000 and 30,000 factory jobs by 2012. White-collar jobs will also go.

The plan covers all facets of the Blue Oval brand’s business and aims to restore profi tability in North America by no later than 2008. Key tenets include better defining the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, developing more small cars, crossovers and hybrid vehicles, and building an as-yet-unspecified low-cost manufacturing site.

Ford believes improved quality will be achieved, in part, through the "aligned business framework" agreements with select strategic suppliers. It describes this as a "single team" approach to product development and purchasing, delivering mutual profitability, better quality, greater innovation and reduced costs.

"We are committed to developing strong relationships with a select group of more capable, more financially stable strategic suppliers on a long-term basis," said Ford’s chief operating officer for the Americas, and one of key architects of the plan, Anne Stevens.

According to chairman and chief executive, Bill Ford, who delivered the Way Forward plan on Monday, the "painful sacrifices" outlined in the plan are designed to protect the company’s heritage and secure its future.

"The next chapter in Ford’s history will be remembered for our renewed commitment to innovation and as the time we moved boldly to prepare Ford’s North American business to face global competition," he said.




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