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by Tim Beissmann

Ford Australia returned a net after-tax profit of $13 million in 2009, the company’s first profit since 2005 and a $287 million improvement on 2008.

Ford Australia President and CEO, Marin Burela, said the combination of a $3.14 billion sales revenue, an improved company cost structure and the non-repeat of one-time actions associated with the restructure helped return the business to profitability one year ahead of plan.

“Like our parent company in the US, Ford Australia took decisive and immediate action at the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008 in order to weather the breaking economic storm.

“We significantly changed our sales and production focus to build cars based on demand and introduced more fuel efficient vehicles like the Fiesta ECOnetic, while improving the environmental performance of our locally manufactured models,” Mr Burela said.

Although its sales figure of 99,279 was below that of 2008, Ford said the improved profit was a reflection of a rise in Falcon sedan share from 25 percent to 34 percent and an increased demand for higher-spec models.

Mr Burela also acknowledged the company’s enormous effort to streamline its build processes and its emphasis on an efficient, build-to-order production schedule with strong inventory management.

“These actions were not easy, and could not have been undertaken without the hard work and dedication of our employees and our dealers.

“But they have delivered on the goal of improving our cash reserves and returning Ford Australia to profit despite an industry-wide downturn in sales, providing a strong base for continued growth and profitability.”

Ford increased its local production volume in October last year by adding overtime to its Victorian plants, and has not ruled out the possibility of continuing on throughout 2010 if demand remains strong.

It is set to begin production of the special edition Falcon 50th anniversary models in June, celebrating its record as the longest-running vehicle nameplate in Ford Motor Company history.

The Falcon is still on track become the first four-cylinder EcoBoost-powered rear-wheel drive vehicle in the world when it goes on sale in 2011, and will also benefit from a new liquid phase injection LPG system.

A turbodiesel engine will be added to the Territory range, also from next year.

Ford recently announced a $20 million upgrade program for its Geelong casting plant which will allow it to produce around one million brake parts per year for Bosch Chassis Systems Australia.

“Our casting plant investment is just one example of Ford Australia taking a different approach to our business to ensure our long-term success in Australia,” Mr Burela said.

“In addition to being a major vehicle manufacturer we are now also a supplier to the broader automotive industry through our innovative partnership with Bosch, repositioning us for an even stronger future.”

According to VFACTS figures, over the first four months of 2010 Ford’s local sales have increased by 8.4 percent over 2009 (30,162 vs 27,822), despite its total market share falling from 10 percent to 9.1 percent.

The Fiesta has been the biggest improver, up 35.7 percent year-to-date to 3861 units, while the Territory (3588 vs 2801) and Mondeo (1654 vs 1297) have also enjoyed increases of over 25 percent.

The Falcon is 22.6 percent ahead of the same time last year with 10,091 sales, although the Falcon Ute is down 6.3 percent and trailing the Holden Ute by more than 700 units. Holden has sold 14,529 Commodore sedans and Sportwagons so far in 2010.

The Focus has perhaps been Ford’s most disappointing model so far this year with sales down 25 percent from 4213 to 3150.




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