Ford Australia President Marin Burela is hopeful that the automotive industry will continue to fight back in 2010 with predictions of national sales up to 950,000.
The self-confessed “glass half-full” forecaster expects the sales to soften in the first quarter after a solid end to 2009 before a kick-up in the second quarter continuing through the rest of 2010.
“I would not at all be surprised if we start to see some 930s/940s (thousands of sales) on a regular basis when we get into the second quarter and into the second half of 2010,” he said.
His optimism comes on the back of strong October sales where Ford sold 8240 vehicles and the industry as a whole was up 2.2 per cent on October 2008 with 80,813 sales.
“We exceeded our expectations in terms of volume in the month of October. I’m very confident that we will continue to see that trend in November, and I think the industry overall will probably finish up somewhere around that 920,000 maybe 930,000.
“We’ve seen a significant uplift in the last few months which is really helping all of the manufacturers as well as all of the employees.”
Burela says the result is a far cry from 12 months ago when figures of low-800s were feared, and believes that the combined efforts governments, unions, manufacturers and suppliers working together have had a great impact.
“When we really get focused on what it takes to get out there and move forward there’s a lot that can be achieved.
“It’s exciting times for us, but we need to be cautious in terms of our optimism because there’s a lot more work that we need to do to truly get the industry back to where it needs to be,” he said.
Tariff reductions – halved to 5 per cent from next year – are just one reason to exercise caution according to Burela.
He says while the reductions will place significantly more pressure on the industry’s ability to absorb changes, his company has not been sitting on its hands.
“We have been working very diligently across our total organisation, with our suppliers, with our manufacturing teams, with our distribution network to find efficiency opportunities to offset some of those tariff changes that we’re going to see.
“Am I satisfied that we have achieved the ultimate goal? The answer is no, it’s very much a work in progress. Am I happy with the progress we have been making? The answer is yes.
“Although it’s hard and we could all say: ‘It’s too hard, we can’t do this’, I’m confident that with the right leadership and the right attention to detail we can continue to carve out a business for ourselves that will be viable.”
Burela said price adjustments for the Falcon and Territory are being considered but insisted that the movements of the market would most likely determine his company’s strategy.
With Falcon sales up 3.4 per cent on October 2008 and Territory rising by almost 11 per cent in the same period, Burela says Ford is looking to boost production above the current 270 cars per day by the end of the year.
He also confirmed that there is no non-production days planned for the rest of this year or for 2010, but stopped well short of implying that overtime could make a comeback.
“We don’t want to be too optimistic. We’re in a good place right now, we’re selling everything we can make, our imported cars are doing great work for us. We’ll make a decision in the next couple of weeks in terms of what we need to do, how we go out there and get those cars that we’re looking for.
“Let’s just see where we are when we move into 2010, but I think next year will be an exciting year.”
by Tim Beissmann