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Minister on salvage mission to Ford

Study tour: Federal industry and innovation minister Ian Macfarlane will get a tour of Ford’s design and engineering centre in Melbourne where vehicles such as the Falcon, Territory, Ranger and upcoming Everest SUV were developed.

Macfarlane says he wants "to do something with Ford", despite factory closure plan

Ford logo2 Oct 2013

NEW federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane will get a tour of Ford’s Asia-Pacific design and engineering centre in Victoria next Wednesday as he looks to salvage something from the wreck of the Blue Oval’s manufacturing departure from Australia in 2016.

The visit to Ford’s operations at Broadmeadows, on Melbourne’s northern fringe, will be part of his orientation tour of the motor industry, which many pundits say is in the balance.

Mr Macfarlane will also visit Toyota Australia’s factory at Altona, in Victoria, while also talking with representatives of parts-makers dependent on the local motor industry for survival.

The newly installed minister is faced with the task of dealing with motor company pleas for more government assistance to assure its survival, while carrying out the Coalition’s pre-election promise to cut $500 million from motor industry aid.

Mr Macfarlane today toured Holden’s car factory at Elizabeth, in Adelaide’s north, before heading into private talks with Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux and South Australian premier Jay Weatherill on the future of the company.

He said his goal was to retain at least two car factories in Australia – the Holden plant in Adelaide and the Toyota plant in Melbourne – but added: “I’d like to think I could do something with Ford – I would like to have this discussion with the Ford people.

“I am going to Ford and Toyota next Wednesday, and I am going to see what we can do over there.”

Ford announced in May that it was planning to shut its Broadmeadows assembly plant and Geelong factory that turns out engines, castings and panels, resulting in the loss of 1200 jobs.

But the company plans to keep its Australian R&D operations that employ about 1000 people on various vehicle projects for Ford global customers.

Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Sinead Phipps today confirmed that the company was expecting a visit from Mr Macfarlane next week.

She said he would be given a tour of the company’s R&D centre and “shown some of the things we are working on”.

But she played down any hope that Ford might find a way to reverse its decision to shut down its Falcon and Territory manufacturing operation in Australia.

“We don’t envisage any major change to our strategy,” she said.

Mr Macfarlane floated a proposal for a new automotive “centre of excellence” research centre in Melbourne as part of his plans to support the industry.

Toyota Australia is yet to spell out what proposals it plans to put to Mr Macfarlane and whether it needs more aid to survive beyond current plans for Camry.

The company has consistently said it plans to go ahead with a refreshed model in 2015 for sale both domestically and in export markets.

The company announced in August that it would pump $123 million into the facelift of Camry and its V6 counterpart, the Aurion, including $23.6 million from the federal government.

Toyota is Australia’s biggest automotive exporter, sending 72,899 Camrys and Aurions overseas last year.

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