Ford Australia boss, Marin Burela, has said Australian car companies completely missed the boat in making the decision to build smaller cars in this country.
Mr Burela told a briefing of automotive journalists in Melbourne that the Australian companies, including Ford, should be building small cars now, not in a year or two when they plan to commence building them.
The Ford Australia President and CEO, who led the project to develop the latest Ford Fiesta before returning to Australia to take over the top job at Ford, said that had Australia car companies been on the ball they would already be making small or medium sized cars to supplement their large car production.
In a very self-effacing moment Mr Burela described the failure to make the decision as a “travesty” for the local industry.
“I think that one of the biggest travesties and issues that the Australian industry has faced is that in Australia we were not looking far enough into the future, to understand where the consumer and where the market would be heading,” he said.
“All of us should have been producing a small or medium car in Australia today. Yet all of us are only producing large cars in this country.
“It is not a case of fault. I think it is a case of, you make the decisions that you make at the time based on the best source of input and data and intelligence that you can gather,” he added.
Both Ford and GM Holden will move into small car production in the next 18 months, Holden producing an as yet unnamed small car, based on a global Delta platform, at its plant at Elizabeth in South Australia, along side the Holden Commodore large car.
Ford has been planning for almost two years to move production of the next Ford Focus small-car to Australia from South Africa and will build the car at its Geelong and Broadmeadows plants.
Toyota currently makes the essentially medium-size Camry and Aurion in Australia, although in the past it has sought to portray both as large cars.
The Ford boss said that small and medium cars had been a huge success in Europe and he expected to see a major shift in Australian buying patterns over the next five or six years.
At the same time he defended the large car market in Australia, saying that Ford forecasting showed the market in Australia would remain at around 10 per cent through until at least 2020.
“I think you will see an ongoing large-car segment that is around the 100,000 units, and our forecasting right out through to the end of the decade, by that I mean 2020, is that it will continue to be around that 90,000 to 110,000 figure,” he said.
Mr Burela was also very bullish about the future of the Australian car industry saying; “We’re actually forecasting that the industry around the end of the decade will hit the 1.1 to 1.15 million units.”
He also sais that Ford Australia was in “pretty good shape” and was fortunate that it did not have to make any decision about the future of its large car, the Falcon, until the end of next year or into 2011.