Globalisation might have a lot to do with the demise of Ford Australia but, according to Ross Jones, much of the blame can be sheeted a lot closer to home.
AH, GLOBALISATION ... what a hoot. An Australian sets the scene for a whole lot of other Australians to lose their jobs.
Back in 1969, the 21 year-old Jacques "Jack" Nasser – product of RMIT – joined Ford Australia as an analyst. The gold GTs had just won Bathurst, scoring first and second, and the very nasty GTHO was just around the corner. Good times.
Global promotions followed. So did a reputation for screwing suppliers. So did the appellation ‘Jack the Knife’. A caring guy. A sharing guy who, after a few global stints torturing local industries, in 1998 ascended the pinnacle of the Ford ziggurat. CEO. Dearborn. Successor to such greats as Lee Iacocca.
Jack’s tenure lasted just three years, until October 2001, but it carved the face of Ford.
Answerable only to chairman William Clay Ford, descendant of the anti-semite, pro-Nazi, union busting Henry, who, by the way, did bugger all by way of inventing anything, but appropriated the brilliance of his underlings for his own self-aggrandisement.
Like any good Australian faced with the largesse generated by the 1990s US boom for F150s and other gargantuan bits of metal and glass, Jack decided to stack the garage with toys. Land Rover, Volvo. Hello?
I’ve resisted mentioning Jack’s Lebanese birth until now, but where I live every self-respecting Lebanese male has a Ford. Good car, mate.
Jack was such a switched on guy that, by 2008, Henry’s baby was ingesting $14.6 billion annually. So, bye-bye Volvo, see you Land Rover. Out with the bathwater went Aston Martin and Jaguar. The Premier Automotive Group indeed.
In 2000, Jack was forced to front a US Congressional Committee over allegations the cheap as chips Firestone rubber fitted to some of the aforementioned gargantuans were in fact shit and contributed directly to the deaths of over 130 SUV suckers... sorry ... consumers. This little cost-cutting, supplier-bleeding, caper is reputed to have cost Ford $4.4 billion all up.
The only decent thing Ford owned was 33% of Mazda — makers of successful motors. A succession of brilliant management decisions reduced that to 3.5%.
Jack – or Jacques to his close friends – evolved, from his own mind, Ford’s ‘Performance Management Process’. Sounds great, eh?
What it did was to grade management into three and to make it a rule that every year at least 5 per cent of managers were classed in the lowest grade. Badly classified staff had two years to elevate themselves to a higher grade or it was "see-you-later". I will let you imagine the office politics.
Jack, then, set the stage for the final curtain.
Australia, as far as Dearborn is concerned, is an outlier. Fresh from copping $34 million from the Victorian and Federal Governments in January 2012 with a straight face, current local MD Bob Graziano has decided he’d rather drive a Holden. Or whatever.
But it's worse — much worse. Not only are those poor bastards in Geelong and Broadmeadows for the chop, I ask you, what about Bathurst? Sorry, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. No Falcon? At Bathurst? Who is going to hate whom? Mercedes fans v Toyota fans? Smuggling slabs of Asahi and Becks onto Mt Panorama?
Did V8 Supercars Events Pty Ltd show preternatural prescience when they decided to admit other brands for the 2013 season? When did they make the decision to do this? And why? Did Ford give them the tip long (as in, at least a year) before the public mea culpa?
My dad had a 1960 XA Falcon. It was a total heap of shit. Fully imported, of course. Gossamer suspension, show it a dirt road and it went all Tea Party. Indignant. Offended. Outraged. The next model, the XP, developed here, was a ripper, and they kept getting better. Big cars you could punt.
But punting isn’t what it was. Had Jack a stalk, he might not have wasted the legacy of a great free-enterprise monolith on the frivolity of screwing suppliers to the wall for fun. And he’s an Australian.