I just read a fascinating article on a website in which the author, Julian Edgar of website autospeed.com discusses the role of journalists in the demise of Ford manufacturing in Australia.
He suggests that had the motoring reviewers been more critical of the FG Falcon upon release that Ford may have gone back to the drawing board and that the industry may have been saved.
You can check out his article here (http://www.autospeed.com/cms/article.html?&A=113004), and in fact, I recommend you do so as I do believe that journalists did play a role in the demise of Ford manufacturing in Australia, but not for the reasons Julian proposes. I find myself disagreeing with his conclusions about the Falcon completely.
I do agree that the majority of buyers today have bought the perception largely proposed by the motoring press that they should be buying more responsible cars like Mazda3’s and Toyota Prius’s but I question their suitability for Australia for many families and indeed their overall running costs. This comment may raise your eyebrows more than a little as there can be no argument that a Mazda3 or Prius uses less fuel than a Falcon, right?
Actually, the difference in fuel consumption can be much closer than you think, especially if you choose the excellent EcoLPI (Liquid Injected LPG system that Ford released that actually produces more power while reducing emissions considerably) or the EcoBoost 4 cylinder. But the focus on fuel efficiency often overlooks the other significant running costs in operating a car, such as maintenance (servicing costs) which are substantially cheaper on the larger rear wheel drive locally produced cars such as Falcons and Commodores.
Parts are also notably cheaper. This is reflected in insurance costs which are less for Falcons than for most small front wheel drive cars. I find it ironic that at a time when the Falcon and Commodore are among the best driving cars in the world and hold their own against European cars for driving dynamics that we have been abandoning them in droves. When they used to be substantially inferior to many European counterparts, we were so loyal to them that we would not consider anything else even though there were much better options at the time.
What has changed? I think there are a variety of factors. One is that there is there is the green factor and we want to be seen to be doing our part. The other is that we do have a great deal more choice now, thanks to the free trade agreements with Thailand which allow imports into Australia at very cheap prices. Every manufacturer has been taking advantage of this now, no matter where they are based as production is so cheap in that region of the world.
It is almost impossible for Australian manufacturers to compete with that no matter what products they produce. The sad reality is that the demise of Ford manufacturing is also killing a wonderful car that was specifically designed for our market. The days of cars designed that way are long gone in the new age of globalization. The new reality of production means you can no longer make a car that way – it simply isn’t cost effective to produce a car made to suit a local market.
The best you can hope for is to tweak a global platform in small ways to suit a local market but not the type of thing we had in the Falcon and Commodore. In my opinion, this is why there is few cars that hold a candle to them on the open road, especially rough Australian outback roads. Julian Edgar in his article sites the Falcon as meeting its demise partly because of poor fuel economy. I believe that was once true but it is largely a misconception today.
Interestingly, in my experience, a 6 cylinder LPG Falcon with a ZF 6 speed auto cruises so economically and quietly even with a full load of passengers and luggage, I don’t think even a small 4 cylinder hatchback could come close. At 100 km/hr I average around 7 l/100 km and that is in a BF Mk II, not the more recent FG Mk II which is more efficient again. It is only around town, in stop start traffic that the large 6 cylinders use more fuel.
Going back to Julian’s article, his suggestion that all the motoring press got it wrong when they said the FG Falcon was better in every way and was an excellent car was in my opinion, plain wrong. The FG is an excellent car, even by global standards. If you think the press got it wrong, drive one. The interior is starting to show it’s age a little now, but to drive it, it’s wonderful. It is just a car that has lost the marketing war. It is a great car for the wrong time, sadly.
Ford Australia haven’t been helped by the fact that Australians have had a brand perception problem with Ford in comparison with Holden. For many years, nothing Ford has done has worked at any class level to gain much attention. Cars that in any other part of the world sell like hotcakes have not been anything like as successful here.
Some blame poor marketing but it seems to me that many Australians treat car brands like football teams, and the great Holden versus Ford debate is infamous in its history, with Holden being the most popular with street cred by far it seems.
In my opinion, to base a decision on which car you buy on this kind of criteria is ridiculous! I prefer to support the local product if at all possible, but you should reward the company that makes the best possible product that does the job that your money can purchase, and not make the decision on any non objective criteria.
I would not hesitate to buy a Holden if it turns out their car is superior as they will deserve to be rewarded with my business for producing the best, and likewise, if I don’t do so, what incentive is there for the manufacturer to produce the best if I am going to give them my business out of blind loyalty anyway?
Keep blind loyalty to your sporting team, and use your reason when buying cars! When I used to help people buy cars and had my business as a car broker as well as spent years in the car sales industry prior to that, I found much to my surprise that men thought they were the masters with cars and indeed, they did know more technically, but they knew only enough to get themselves into more trouble. Women listened and ultimately were more objective and more able to be helped! Sorry to offend you, fella’s!
If you want to regain the high ground, be prepared to listen and learn from others and don’t let your ego get in the way and close your mind and think you know it all. Be objective. Ask yourself if you are being objective or subjective. Back to the point though – it ultimately is up to us if we have a local car industry. I would not hesitate to buy another locally produced car, including a local Ford, Holden or Toyota. Don’t swallow the line that small always equals cheap to run. It doesn’t. You may not save yourself anything at all in the long run.
What is the cheapest car I have ever had for total running costs? By far and away, it is my current Ford Falcon BBF Mk II EuroSport (LPG). The Falcon is one of the very few cars which takes to LPG so well and does high kays on it without modification and the proof of that is the countless taxis running around with literally millions of kays on them. It doesn’t break down, so it is also my most reliable car ever. It is also a pleasure to drive. So it was with some sadness I saw the announcement and loss of all those jobs at Ford Australia.
I would not hesitate to buy another Falcon, despite the announcement. I suspect there will be some bargains to be had in the days to come and it will help keep the workers in jobs until 2016. There will be the all new Falcon next year too which has been promised and committed too as well. One more Falcon to go. I hope they send it out with a bang and not a whimper so they can say it was truly the best Aussie car ever produced. Right now, it appears that cap, according to the press belongs to the VF Commodore.
I certainly wouldn’t encourage you to buy a large family car if you don’t need one, but don’t dismiss them out of hand and buy the lie that they are substantially more expensive to run. Look at the big picture, including servicing, parts, insurance, safety and comfort and make the right compromise to suit you.
Try talking to a decent independent mechanic to get your advice before you make your next decision about buying a car. A good independent, highly trained specialist team like the guys at Warragul Automotive (http://www.warragulautomotive.com.au) are the type of people who can give you advice you can rely on.
If you are buying second hand, do what I do and get them or other independent respected specialists to check out the car. You’d be mad if you don’t. Even if you are nowhere near Peter and Lindsay and the team at Warragul Automotive, using any good independent automotive for advice and an inspection is both wise and critical in my opinion on a used car, and seeking their advice on the maintenance issues of new cars is also a great idea.
One word of caution on fixed and capped price servicing. There is a difference between these two and they both have their limitations in the long term. They are designed to keep you loyal to the brand and to keep you coming back to the service department of the vendor. Let’s take Toyota as an example. The Camry comes with “Toyota Service Advantage”.
That means you’ll pay the same low capped price for eligible logbook services. Maximum payable for Camry (post Nov 11 production) for standard scheduled logbook servicing (normal operating conditions) until first of 4 years or 75,000kms (whichever occurs first) (up to the first 5 services).
Using the current Camry Hybrid as an example those 7 services will cost you $130 each – clearly a bargain. Don’t be fooled however into thinking this is the normal servicing cost of this car – it is NOT! It is a heavily subsidized price by Toyota themselves. The service department charge you $130, but Toyota pay the balance of the real service cost as a warranty claim to the dealer! This means if you plan to own this car for the long term, you need to factor in the REAL servicing costs, and not the artificial ones.
Of course, if you plan to rotate your car back to a new vehicle within this period, you’ll be fine, but it is something to keep in mind. Also be aware that servicing intervals vary between makes, so it is not just the price but how often you must pay that price that you must consider. It is always distance traveled or time – whichever comes first. Exploding servicing costs are one of the hidden real costs in long term car ownership that must be faced and it is one thing that few reviews ever tell you about when they are extolling the virtues of a car.
For years the press having been singing the praises of Volkswagen’s while I have been cautioning people based on information I gained from both owners and from the guys at Warragul Automotive. Now it has become public knowledge that there are serious issues for VW to address with a global recall with Australia just being added to the list. Indeed, it was so serious, a woman may have lost her life due to the failure of her DSG systems at a critical moment.
I also know that the cost of repair of even the most minor problem of a VW out of warranty can be enough to send a healthy person to a cardiac unit for resuscitation! Yet they have terrific fuel consumption! It isn’t all about simple l/100 km’s folks. Do look at the big picture of car ownership. Next to buying your house, a car is likely to be the next biggest ticket item you will buy.
Buy in haste, repent at leisure! In finishing, it is a little simplistic to blame any one factor on the failure of Ford manufacturing in Australia and to suggest that the motoring journalists were responsible in isolation would be simplistic at best. There is little doubt that we are spoilt for choice. The strengthened Aussie dollar has made imports much cheaper, and conversely has made it much harder for Aussie manufacturers to export.
Combine that with Aussie worker’s pay and conditions being so high, it makes it hard to compete, especially against the scale of these other plants and markets. Also, there is little doubt that ultimately, we the consumer put the final nail in the coffin. It isn’t that the products weren’t good enough, but we had little motivation to buy Australian and put very little value on that, sadly. So many great brands have gone because we have not valued them here and supported them with our business. So, Who killed Ford manufacturing in Australia? We did.