Despite his genial, affable manner, Alan Mulally is a businessman and, by all accounts, a businessman not to be crossed with. One story goes, when he first started with Ford, he let them know, in the clearest possible terms, “Everybody says you can’t make money off small cars,” he said. “Well, you’d better damn well figure out how to make money, because that’s where the world is going.” Long protected from the brutal rationalisation of the global market, Australia might be about to get a taste of the man’s darker side as he attempts to drag Ford’s Australian ops into the 21st Century.
The Australian reports that the future of Ford’s Melbourne factory in Australia is undecided. The Ford Falcon’s current model will finish in five years’ time and there’s no cash on the horizon for retooling (unsurprisingly, considering its weak sales start). “We’re looking at a variety of things at the moment. What we build in Australia will evolve over the next 18 months to two years.” said Ford Australia Chief Executive, Marin Burela.
Alan “I’m Steve Jobs, mark 2.0” Mulally still hasn’t passed judgement on whether Ford will continue manufacture in the Land Down Under. The only thing he has confirmed was that developing a new Falcon, just for the Australian market, was no longer an option. “People who make one vehicle for one country — a different vehicle — those days are gone because you can’t compete with the global companies,” Mr Mulally said. “Around the world now, the things that are driving every purchase decision are quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and the best value.” Seems like Mr Mulally is taking this “One Ford” policy very seriously.
There were plans to build the next Focus in Australia to replace the Falcon, but those plans have since been scrapped and Alan Mulally said there was no chance that decision would be reversed. Could there be a more sure sign that Ford do not wish to continue manufacture in Australia? Still, Mr Mulally didn’t want to alienate the Australian market so he trotted out the usual management speak in a situation like this, “Australia is a very important market for us and we’ve worked hard to be competitive,” he said. “No matter what, we’re going to serve the Australian market.” Which is great, but doesn’t help clarify the future of the Melbourne plant. In defence of Mr Mulally, Ford Australia built 55,000 cars last year, which is a small amount. Couple that with the fact that the United States and Australia have a free trade agreement between them, then suddenly, it’s easy to see where Alan Mulally is coming from.