Well, as Ned Kelly may have said on the scaffold, “I suppose it had to come to this”. Ford has been prosecuting a strategy of risk minimisation which has principally been about investment minimisation in Australia for at least a decade and naturally enough, if you don’t invest you end up uncompetitive. It’s been sad to watch how little dignity our politicians have had in negotiating with Ford. We’ve tossed them money begging them to stay. Even if you accepted the protectionist argument that manufacturing is the salt of the earth and that we should therefore subsidise it if necessary – which I don’t – the real pity is that it has been evident with Ford for a decade or so that our subsidies were good money after bad.
As I’ve argued, if you did want to build the industry, we tossed these guys a lot of money and had we made that available in a ‘beauty contest’ I think it’s quite likely we could have got one of the emerging Asian giants of India or China to buy Ford’s assets and use them not just to accelerate their entry into what is an important developed country market but also to export a large car to stick in their showrooms around the world to fill out their model range. This would have been the cheapest way available for them to build a unique, large flagship car for those showrooms – where the game is largely to present buyers with a large, luxurious and highly priced car which then ‘frames’ their main range as better priced.
I’ve discussed this and some other issues in numerous columns and since I enumerated them the other day in an email to a journo who was doing a feature on the industry, I thought I’d copy them all down for you here for your reference:
Postscript: I’ve done some radio interviews on this subject and here’s one which was quite fun.