Your next Ford will be built at $6 an hour 

Meet the factory workers in Thailand that will take our jobs once Australia’s car manufacturing industry closes

The Thailand workers will be making your next Ford when the Broadmeadows assembly line falls silent forever this Friday — ending 91 years of car making in Australia for the US giant.
While the minimum wage in Thailand equates to less than $2 an hour, car assembly line workers are paid more generously — about $6 an hour, which is close to $12,500 a year.
But it’s nowhere near the average annual Australian car manufacturing worker wage of $69,000.
Cheaper labour costs are not the only reason Aussie jobs are being sent offshore.
Import tariff reductions — supported by both sides of politics across the past three decades — accelerated the demise of car manufacturing.
Australia was the only country in the world to manufacture cars and not have some form of protection for its local industry.

As the tariffs were removed, imported cars got cheaper — or better equipped — which had the instant affect of making Australian-made cars less appealing.
But no policy was more brutal than the Free Trade Deal with Thailand, introduced in 2005.
Since Australia agreed to lift the import tariff on cars from Thailand, we have bought 1,877,446 vehicles from our Asia-Pacific neighbour — from brands as diverse as Ford, Holden, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda and others.
In return, Australia has shipped to Thailand just 100 cars.
Not 100,000. Just 100 examples, of the Ford Territory, in 2012.


Ford workers leave the manufacturing plant, outside of Bangkok, after their shift. 
That’s because Thailand maintained hidden, non-tariff barriers while Australia opened its borders completely.
Thailand continued to impose higher registration fees on cars with larger engines. Ford and Holden produce large cars with large-capacity engines.
Ten years after the free trade deal was signed, Australia is shutting its doors on an entire industry and with it more than 50,000 jobs.
Australia was the only country in the world to manufacture cars and not have some form of protection for its local industry.
Now those jobs have been transferred to Thailand, known as the Detroit of the Asia-Pacific. It is the second-biggest source of motor vehicles in Australia after Japan and ahead of South Korea.
Thailand has been so lucrative for Ford it now has two factories there.

A view looking into the Ford manufacturing facility outside of Bangkok. Picture: Patrick Brown.

A joint venture factory with Mazda assembles the Ford Ranger ute — designed from scratch in Broadmeadows on Melbourne’s northern outskirts, and engineered on the roads near Geelong.
Ford also opened a brand-new Thai factory in May 2012. It makes the Ford Focus small car that was supposed to be built in Broadmeadows.
In 2007 Ford announced the Focus would be built in Australia. But exactly two years and one day later the company scrapped those plans. Thailand would build the Focus instead, for a fraction of the cost.
Both Ford facilities — in the country’s industrial heartland between Bangkok and its main ports in the Gulf of Thailand — produce a combined total of almost 500,000 cars a year, employ more than 6000 workers, and export to 130 countries.
Broadmeadows last year built fewer than 20,000 vehicles. The factory workforce has shrunk to about 800. And it has one export destination: New Zealand.

An Australian-designed and engineered — but Thai made — Ford Everest near a temple in Thailand. Picture: Supplied.

Ford Thailand worker, Ai, has been on the assembly line in the powertrain division for five years. He was at Broadmeadows a month ago for a two-week training session for Thai employees.
“I feel the closing of Australian plant is business as usual, their production cost are too high,” he told News Corp Australia.

Bee and Panti, two of the many women who work in the factory, reason “the news about (Australian factories) closing has been around for at least three years. I don’t feel bad for them (Australian workers) as they have been informed years in advance”

It might be an industrial wasteland — albeit one dotted with palm trees — but conditions are good for the workers in a country where $300 a month is an acceptable working class wage.
“It’s a great place to work. The pay — it’s good but I would like more,” says Pitun, an assembly line worker.
As with everyone News Corp Australia spoke to outside the factory, Pitun says he’s pleased to work in clean and safe conditions.
Fleets of buses and mini vans transport workers back to their homes — some as far away as a three-hour drive to central Bangkok.

It’s not just the car assembly lines that have moved to Thailand. The parts supply industry has followed.
Across the road from one Ford factory is seat maker Futuris, a long-time Australian firm acquired by US private equity group Clearlake Capital in 2013.
“There are around 20 Australian auto-related manufacturing companies in Thailand — or companies with an Australian link,” Austrade Thailand senior trade commissioner Susan Kahwati told News Corp Australia.
“The majority of these companies actually established in Thailand before the announced closure of the car manufacturers in Australia. But many of these companies still keep their research and development activities in Australia,” Ms Kahwati said.
Indeed, it’s the case with Ford. Detroit will retain 1100 Australian designers and engineers based in Broadmeadows, Geelong and Lara (on the outskirts of Geelong) to work on future models that will be sold globally.
Their depth of expertise — critical to car development — doesn’t exist in China or Thailand in the Ford world. At least for now.

Where future Fords will come from:

Thailand: Ford Ranger, Ford Everest, Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta

India: Ford Ecosport

Turkey: Ford Transit

Spain: Ford Kuga, Ford Mondeo

Germany: Ford Focus RS, Ford Fiesta ST

USA: Ford Mustang

Canada: Ford Edge (2017)

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