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Ford boss slams bid to speed-limit vehicles

Gorman v Bracks: "I don’t know of a country in the world that mandates speed limiting its vehicles," says Ford chief.

Ford president fires up over Victorian government proposal to speed limit vehicles

Ford logo18 Nov 2004


FORD Australia president Tom Gorman has reacted angrily to a surprising Victorian Government proposal to limit vehicle speedometer displays to around 130km/h.

The plan was announced by transport minister Peter Bachelor last week and will be taken to this week’s Australian Transport Council meeting in an attempt to change Australian Design Rules relating to speedos.

“The issue of limits on power and on top speeds of motor vehicles registered for on-road use should be considered at a national level,” Mr Batchelor said in a press release.

“Unfortunately, some motorists use their speedometer as a guide to see how fast a car can go.

“Limiting the speedometer display to about 130km/h will remove the incentive for motorists to drive at excessive and dangerous speeds in order to test the limits of their vehicle,” asserted Mr Bachelor, who added it would also result in better definition of the actual speed being travelled by a motorist because speedos would span a smaller range, rather than up to 220km/h or higher.

But the suggestion has met with an outspoken response from an uncharacteristically heated Mr Gorman, whose company’s new F6 Typhoon performance sedan was the subject of controversial debate last week in some newspapers and in a Melbourne talkback radio interview with Premier Steve Bracks, who backed the idea.

“If I were an Australian citizen I would frankly be offended that for some reason I’m the only human on the planet that is not responsible enough, and cannot be trusted, to drive a car in the proper manner,” said Mr Gorman, an American, when questioned by GoAuto on the issue.

“Every other citizen in the world can do that, except in Australia. And I don’t fully understand why that is.

“These are the things I would like to talk to Peter about: what is it that’s in the Australian make-up that I’m not seeing that is an indication that as a citizen you are so irresponsible that the government needs to manage your behaviours in such a way. I just don’t get it.

“We employ 5000 people, 99 per cent of them in the state of Victoria, and I think I matter, my company matters, and if I’m doing something you’re unhappy with then pick up the phone and call me.

“That didn’t happen so now we’re going to get into this 'piss and moan' to the press which is not the way to do business.

“We need to sit down and understand what his issue really is. If his issue is road safety and fatalities on the road and severe injuries, then we’re totally aligned.

“As the president of the FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries) as well as the president of Ford, we’re doing a lot on that front, which involves several activities.

“Number one is road design: fix your roads. I mean, you don’t have to drive around a lot in Australia to realise the roads here are not good. So you need to fix your roads.

“Number two is about behaviour modification and we need to participate in this, whether it be driver training or awareness on speed, drink-driving, whatever. We have a responsibility to deliver safe vehicles and I think we do that with both active and passive safety levels.

“And we have a responsibility to present our vehicles to the marketplace in a responsible manner, which we do.

“We have a voluntary code of behaviour for our advertising which we follow and if we don’t follow it the ads get pulled, so I don’t see what we’re not doing as an industry.” Mr Gorman said the Australian car industry’s inability to import and export common vehicles around the world, if the proposal was approved, would make it uncompetitive, and that car companies could potentially face lawsuits by people caught speeding excessively who claimed their speedo indicated just 130km/h.

“I don’t think the way to deal with this is to take the privilege away,” he said.

“What has the typical Australian done to lose the privilege of driving their vehicle? “I have no issue with holding people to a speed limit, but what you’re mandating is: I don’t trust that you’ll do the right thing, therefore I won’t give you the opportunity to do the wrong thing.

“It’s like saying ‘I don’t believe you can be a responsible adult when it comes to drinking and driving, therefore I’ll take away your right to consume’.

“There are a lot of issues that drive road fatalities: speed is one, fatigue is another, alcohol is another.

“So given that Australians are clearly not responsible enough to drink and drive sensibly we should ban alcohol ... and then and then and then.

“I don’t know of a country in the world that mandates speed limiting its vehicles.” Mr Gorman, who described Typhoon as a “red rag to a bull”, said the FCAI was in active discussions about road safety, and that the next FCAI meeting would deal with driver training.

“The FCAI AGM invited road training experts, many of whom said it made young drivers more aggressive,” he said.

“I’m not saying they’re right or wrong but there’s enough debate about it that it requires some serious attention and that we as a group and as a country ought to design a driver training program that works, that teaches people how to drive responsibly.

“Things like how to drive evasively, to pull over when you’re tired, to give the keys to someone else when you’ve had too much to drink. It’s nothing to do with the vehicle – it has to do with the individual.”

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