Thursday, 23 May 2013

A forgotten lesson from Ford closure

The news that Ford would close its Australian car manufacturing plants in 2016 was a shock to me, but one I have been very well prepared for over the past few years.

It is long forgotten by almost everbody else who discussing the issue, but Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan was planning to close car manufacture in Australia twenty years ago until the Federal Government offered aid in terms of devaluing (even undervaluing) the Aussie dollar and direct financial help – as well as eliminating indexation of fuel excise to help thirsty local cars and imported 4x4s.

In 1993 I was quietly worried about Ford closing its doors after the highly publicised Nissan closure of 1992, but with hindsight I recognise that the government ought to focus research in a very different direction. Given Australia’s extremely fragile ecology it requires a much more (not less) energy-efficient transport sector than the Enriched World. This would necessarily require transportation to be focused on mass surface transit both in urban and rural areas – that is, on railways.

It is interesting to me to consider whether an Australia without a car industry would have a less powerful road lobby, but I do not believe that so because the parent companies of importers know how much more sympathetic Australia is to wastage of money on roads, so car companies know well where to focus their energies.

What people do not realise is that, rather than focus on car transport, Australia needs to see whether a mass transit vehicle industry – even if supported by something like the old 57.5 percent tariff on cars – could develop the same sorts of skills as a car industry, an idea neglected by Remy Davison.

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