Ford’s European boss John Fleming is right to be worried about the growing trend of Euro government’s to bail out their ‘home teams’.
Because, despite its size as a car maker, Ford’s diverse European operations mean that it’s without a single place to call home.
Presuming free market economics hold sway, it shouldn’t matter at all that the Focus gets built in Germany, the Mondeo in Belgium and the Fiesta in Spain and Germany – with many of the diesel engines coming from Britain.
Ford’s problem is that, as the European car market contracts, rational economic criteria is being replaced by thinly-disguised national self interest, as politicians and unions campaign for bail-outs for ‘native’ car manufacturers.
The logic seems to be simple enough: yes, we’re producing too many cars, but that doesn’t mean our factories should be the ones to be shut down.
Of course, there’s the chance that the EU might step in and have a look at some of these loans and guarantees, many of which seem to be sailing as close as possible to competition legislation intended to stop nationalistic bail-outs.
But that’s in the future, and in the meantime Ford is hurting as rivals like Renault, PSA – and now potentially GM - find themselves with access to life-saving funds.
The irony is that, despite the fact Ford hasn’t produced a passenger car here since the last-but-one Fiesta died in 2001, many older Brits do see Ford as being in some way British, doubtless spurred on by memories of all the Escorts and Cortinas that swarmed out of Halewood and Dagenham in the ‘sixties, ‘seventies and ‘eighties.
So here’s my cheeky suggestion – Ford of Europe should fight back against this nationalistic favouritism with … nationalist favouritism. Since the demise of MG Rover we’ve been short of a national champion, and Ford could easily become ‘our’ manufacturer. Ford’s products do better here than anywhere else in Europe, and would do better still if they could fly the flag.
Plus, getting practical, Ford still owns enough space in Dagenham to build a new production plant and I’ll bet that it could even buy back Halewood from JLR for a bargain price if it needed another factory site.
Move the Focus. S-Max, Galaxy and Mondeo over here, produce the Fiesta and Ka in Poland and use the pound: euro exchange rate to gouge some competitive advantage against subsidised European rivals. Technorati Tags: Ford, Dagenham, factory