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Ford closure - Aus needs to shift gear to high value manufacturing

13 October, 2016

Ford's official closure signals passing of an era of auto assembly in Australia, but also raises optimism for Australia to build its presence in higher-value segments of manufacturing.

"The official closure of Ford's facilities in Broadmeadows and Geelong is an occasion to register sadness at the passing of an era; determination to facilitate the transition to productive futures of businesses and employees all along the associated supply chains; and also optimism about the prospect of Australia building a strong and sustainable presence in higher-value segments of global automotive supply chains," Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said recently.

"The passing of the era of auto assembly in Australia by some of the world's leading majors is one of profound sadness. This industry has provided many productive jobs, it has provided opportunities for many small and medium-sized businesses along its supply chains; it has it has helped to sustain many local communities; and it has had deep impacts on the development of Australia's manufacturing capabilities - particularly among the many technical and managerial personnel whose careers and potential for positive contributions have been enriched by their periods of employment at Ford and the other majors. The closure of these facilities will have far-reaching impacts in all of these areas.

"These impacts need to be taken seriously and indeed they are being taken seriously including by the Victorian and Australian governments. It is critical that transition programs be continued and increased where possible to ensure that the most is made of the capabilities of the employees and businesses in the automotive supply chains that have lost an important source of income. It is vital that the efforts of employees and businesses to find alternatives paths are fully encouraged. Similarly, the regional impacts need to be considered fully. Many of the communities that have been built around Broadmeadows, Geelong and the associated supply chains are under stress. Further attention needs to be given to addressing their needs as well as their hopes and expectations.

"Just as importantly, today is an occasion to shine an optimistic light on the very strong potential for Australia to build its presence in higher-value segments of manufacturing, including in global automotive supply chains. For many businesses affected by the closure of the Broadmeadows and Geelong facilities, the directions they are currently taking include a strong participation in export of auto components and services. These directions take advantage of the internationally competitive position that these businesses and their employees have built and continue to build. Many businesses also are finding opportunities to build competitiveness outside of automotive supply chains. And Ford itself is showcasing this potential for Australian excellence. Ford is rightly proud of its continuing Australian presence in research, development, design and product development for its global manufacturing enterprise. All of these areas provide good reasons to be confident and optimistic about the strong future that Australia can play in, and the benefits that we can derive from, building our participation in global manufacturing," Willox said.

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