You don’t get Ford Boss of Bosses Alan Mulally half-way round the world from Dearborn USA at the drop of a hat. After all, he’s got a $140billion global enterprise to run.
And you don’t have four of his top guns, including David Schoch, Asia Pacific CEO, and Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano, sitting next to him in front of an audience of 800 Ford Dealers, journalists and key corporate customers unless there’s something important they want to tell us.
And that’s what Ford’s Go Further Event at Sydney’s Fox Studios was all about. It was about telling Australia something important.
“This is the largest group we’ve ever brought together in Australia,' Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano said.
“Why are we doing this? There are two reasons: first to demonstrate Ford’s commitment to Australia and New Zealand; and second, to share our vision for growth,” he said.
Sure, the line-up of new models including the stunning next-gen Mondeo, the ‘tough truck’ Ranger-based Everest SUV, and confirmation of the Mustang heading here next year – well, all that news was an important part of the message.
But it wasn’t the real sub-text to the event.
Having Alan Mulally here was about re-assurance.
The real message was to reassure Australia that while there is no room in ‘One Ford’ for local manufacturing, Ford Australia has a role here that extends across the Ford global business.
The market here - and its dealers and customers - have a whole lot of things to look forward to.
'You’re still an important part of Ford,' that was the sub-text.
That's why we were shown, again, the integration of Ford Australia’s engineering and design facility with Ford's global product development centres.
Its importance and of Ford's commitment to its continuing role came from the lips of none other Mulally himself.
“We are committing to Australia being one of our product development centres of excellence, where designers and engineers (develop) vehicles and technologies for the world,” Alan Mulally said.
"Today is about looking forward and delivering great products, a strong business, and a better world for all of us."
David Schoch underlined the $1.9billion Ford has invested in product R&D in Australia - more than any other Australian vehicle manufacturer - the $200million invested in product development last year and the commitment that, by 2016, there will be 1100 designers and engineers in the Australian team.
“For us, the future starts today, and it’s time to take a fresh look at a new Ford Motor Company here in Australia and New Zealand,” Bob Graziano said.
And with that commitment, Ford rolled out its suite of new models heading this way - including the commitment to a design refresh of the Falcon.
It was only shown as a glimpse of the front end, but will clearly borrow heavily from Ford's global horizontal-barred corporate 'face', with split grille, curved bonnet and narrowed eyes.
In a hangar-sized auditorium at Fox Studios, Ford rolled its stars into the lights; the soon-to-be-released 1.0 litre EcoSport mini-SUV, the upcoming Fiesta ST, the gorgeous Mondeo wagon and hatch, and the stunning tough-truck 4WD SUV Everest, designed in Australia off the Ranger platform.
The EcoBoost racecar was also centre-stage.
It was staged as a Motor Show stand should be staged: a showcase for the brand and its technologies and capabilities, rather than just another showroom.
While the Everest concept prototype was not unexpected, nor the news of the Mustang, the next-gen Mondeo cars perhaps drew the most interest.
Tourer and Hatch, this is a sublime and beautifully-styled car. It could easily have been a premium Audi or BMW; and will win lots of friends when it finally reaches production.
The 'Go Further' event reportedly cost Ford Australia some millions to stage.
There was little in the way of new 'news', but the message was for the Australian community: Ford may be cutting loose its production here, it no longer fits with the 'One Ford' plan, but Ford Australia, and the Australian market, remains a key part of Ford's global planning.
And that's what Alan Mulally was here to tell us.
TMR Managing Editor