FORD now has Andrew Birkic in the driving seat as president and CEO for the Australia and New Zealand region.

It seems to be a natural fit – Mr Birkic has played an integral role in the global success of the Australian-developed Ford Ranger and Everest vehicles – as former regional president and CEO, Kay Hart, gears up for a new global role as enterprise product line manager (EPLM) for Ford Van and Bus, based in Europe.

Mr Birkic, whose title changed today from chief product marketer for Ranger and Everest, will be based in Melbourne and report to Ford International Markets Group president, Mark Ovenden. 

“Andrew is a highly experienced and engaging leader who brings a wealth of insights into the evolving needs of customers,” Mr Ovenden said. “Andrew’s passion for bringing vehicles to market that truly serve our customers, his breadth of understanding of the local market, and his global expertise will serve as a strong foundation for the continued progress of the business. I am delighted to welcome Andrew into this role.”

Customers have been at the centre of each of Andrew Birkic’s roles with Ford in Australia, Asia and the US over the past 26 years. As chief product marketer for Ranger and Everest, Mr Birkic represented the needs of global customers in key product decisions, ensuring the unique requirements of customers from each region were considered.

He also has global responsibility to develop pricing, series and positioning strategies for future vehicles, working in close collaboration with the Ford Product Development team based in Melbourne.   

Prior to his current role, Mr Birkic spent three years in Detroit as global advanced consumer experience platforms manager, and two and a half years in Shanghai as Ford Asia Pacific director for dealer development and consumer experience. Working with dealers and Ford teams in each country to develop tools and strategies to better serve their customers was at the heart of both roles.

Before this, Mr Birkic held a variety of leadership positions across marketing, sales and the Ford Customer Service Division at Ford Australia, where he began his career in 1994.

“I am thrilled to be re-joining the fantastic team in Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Birkic said.

“I know how passionate and accomplished the team is, having spent the past two years working with the Ranger and Everest development team to grow the brands across more than 180 markets. I look forward to working closely with our team and dealers to serve our customers.”

Mr Birkic will now be responsible for Ford’s National Sales Company (NSC) in Australia and New Zealand, including marketing, sales and service, dealer relations, and customer satisfaction.

Mr Birkic’s appointment comes at an exciting time for Ford Australia and New Zealand, as the company prepares to launch the all-new Ford Puma and Escape SUVs, including the brand’s first electrified vehicle, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

HART HEADS FOR EUROPE

Kay Hart, in a new global role as enterprise product line manager (EPLM) for Ford Van and Bus, based in Europe, will report to Jim Baumbick, EPLM vice president. She will now be responsible for the Van and Bus product lines in addition to carrying forward Ford’s Commercial Vehicle alliance with VW. Ms Hart has also been appointed a member of the Ford Otosan board of directors, and will be based out of Dunton, UK.

Ford’s EPLM organisation comprises cross-functional teams that manage distinct product lines as end-to-end businesses and leverage Ford’s human-centred design, advanced product marketing and user experience teams to create breakthrough products and customer experiences.

“Kay’s contribution to our business in Australia and New Zealand over the past two years has been outstanding, from delivering Ranger’s overall 4x4 leadership in Australia, to further strengthening our focus on customer satisfaction,” Mr Ovenden said. “We congratulate Kay as she transitions to her new global role.”

Ms Hart joins the EPLM team after holding a number of key roles in New Zealand, Thailand, China, the Philippines, the US and Australia over her 21 years at the company.

“I’ve loved my time in Australia and New Zealand,” Ms Hart said. “I have every confidence that our Ford team – both employees and dealers – will continue to strive to create an even better experience for our customers and introduce great vehicles to this rapidly evolving market.

“I am proud of our commitment to Australia, and the work of our 2,500-strong team who design and engineer world-class vehicles like the Ranger and Everest and look forward to following their progress in my new role.”

Ford is now Australia’s largest automotive employer, with more than 2,500 engineers, designers, technical, automotive and other specialists working at four locations across Victoria. Australia-based engineers and designers led the development of award-winning vehicles such as the Ford Ranger pickup and Everest SUV.

Australia is a key product development hub for Ford, with the company investing more than $1.9 billion in research and development in Australia between 2016 and 2019. More than $500 million of investment is planned for 2020.

Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited (Ford Australia) is a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, founded in Geelong, Victoria, in 1925.

www.ford.com.au

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AN AUSTRALIAN AUTOMOTIVE record was broken over the weekend with the iconic first Bathurst-winning Harry Firth-engineered Holden HT Monaro race car achieving the highest price for a Holden sold at auction.

The 1969 HT Monaro 57D race car fetched $750,000 at auction, selling under the hammer to an Australian enthusiast who has vowed to keep the car in the country. 

“We are extremely excited that the car will remain within Australia," Lloyds Auctions chief operations officer Lee Hames said. "This important Holden achieved the highest price for a road registerable Australian Holden ever sold at auction,

“There were seven bidders on the Holden Monaro which came down to two Australian enthusiasts who fought it out, both with the intention to keep the car within Australia,” Mr Hames said.

After the car being flagged last minute as a potential export ban from the Australian Government, where it may have been unable to leave Australian soil, the scenario ended up being voided.

The winning bidder of the Monaro wishes to remain anonymous.

“The auction had a 95 percent sell-through rate of cars all with very strong prices showing that the market is as strong as ever,” Mr Hames said.

Australian market cars weren’t the only ones set to break records with both American and more particularly European luxury car sales indicating that markets were extremely strong at present, he said.

“It was fantastic to see the amount of people that tuned into the auction online from all over the world to watch the five-hour live event,” Mr Hames said.  

“The strong bidding and prices achieved for these cars and even the bikes in particular was great. I think it is fantastic that the majority of bidders were Australian, meaning the cars remain on Australian soil,” he said. 

Australia's former Formula One world champion race driver, Alan Jones said, “I am not particularly surprised at the prices achieved in this auction or the records broken over the weekend attracting all of the international attention.  It’s a testament to the cars and the passion of car enthusiasts.” 

Mr Hames said with the Holden Monaro remaining on Aussie soil and the majority of bidders being Australian it is safe to say that enthusiasts nationwide are extremely proud and passionate people, fighting to keep their beloved cars in their country where they can enjoy them.

www.lloydsauctions.com.au

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TODAY’S AUCTION of Holden’s first racing Monaro, expected to fetch around A$1 million, may be impacted by a last-minute notice that it may not be allowed to leave Australian soil.

Lloyds Auctions received contact from the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications to state that the rare Monaro could be an Australian Protected Object.

Aimed towards preserving and keeping history within Australia, Lloyds Auctions chief operations officer Lee Hames commended the government’s stance in protecting Australian motoring history for the future of Australian enthusiasts. 

We have been recommending General Motors buys this car and donates it to an Australian museum as a parting gift for them leaving the country,” Mr Hames said before the auction.

The iconic Holden HT Monaro is projected to sell for more than $1 million at auction today, set to break records and double the previous record for a Holden vehicle sold at auction.

It is the very first factory-built race car to bear a Holden badge and is credited with launching the Holden Dealer Team’s racing dominance in the 1970s and 80s, cementing the Holden-Ford sporting rivalry that still divides the nation today in Supercars..

The car is a significant piece of Australian motorsport history, not only shaping the success of Holden as a company, but also setting the stage for the domination by Holden and Peter Brock for the following two decades.

“While we’re seeing rare classic cars like Holden Toranas and GT Falcons selling for hundreds of thousands, none have the colourful backstory or cultural significance of this Monaro, which is what makes it so rare and special,” Mr Hames said. 

“The enquiry on this car is massive from all over the country. We expect that this incredible piece of history will break seven figures – making it the most expensive Holden ever.”.

This particular HT Monaro is the first Holden prepared by motorsport legend Harry Firth, which debuted at the 1969 Sandown 300, but a fiery crash at the 45-minute mark ended the race prematurely.

Findings from the crash were used to homologate changes for other HDT Monaros which led to Colin Bond and Tony Roberts claiming victory at Bathurst the same year. Also in Monaros, Des West and rookie Peter Brock finished third.

So it was that the legendary success of Holden’s Dealer Team was launched, and Holden’s ongoing rivalry with Ford cemented.

Last year marked 50 years since the HT Monaros commenced the Holden dynasty, a new era for the Holden Dealer Team on the mountain. 

The auction commences at midday today and is currently open taking online bids.

 https://www.lloydsauctions.com.au/57d

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AUTOMOTIVE technology company Veoneer, Inc. has launched its state-of-the-art suite of collision mitigation technology on Volvo's new fully electric Polestar 2, which is due in Australia later this year.

Veoneer begins production of its advanced sensing technology and software aimed at enabling the Polestar 2 to become a leader in the next generation of car safety, in tuen with Volvo's mission.  

The system allows the Polestar 2 to gather information and data about its surroundings and the trajectory of vehicles around it to assist drivers to avoid potentially hazardous situations. 

Key components of the technology suite include Veoneer's fourth-generation mono vision system, 77GHz front radar, and a state-of-the-art ADAS Electronic Control Unit (ECU). The Polestar 2 is the first vehicle to use the Zenuity sensor fusion software platform enabling industry-leading features like object detection, lane keeping aid, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and traffic assist.  

Veoneer's front 77 GHz radar unit and windshield-mounted mono vision camera keeps the Polestar 2's eyes on the road to take preventative measures whenever something encroaches on its path ahead.

Everything from disabled cars to pedestrians can be noticed by the Polestar 2, which then warns the driver (via a brake pulse, audio warning signal, and visual warning signal in the driver display) and then brakes automatically if needed. Automatic pre-braking, steering support, and incrementally tightening seatbelts also come into play, maximizing safety for the occupants.

Veoneer's fourth-generation mono vision system is designed with a 100-degree field-of-view and 1.7 megapixel resolution to support ADAS features necessary to achieve 5-star ratings for Euro NCAP.  The system comprises fully integrated hardware and algorithms using deep learning technologies that identify objects such as cars, road markings, or road signs.

Veoneer's newest generation of 77GHz radars have improved performance and provide reliable and accurate situational awareness of objects surrounding the vehicle. 

Veoneer's radar design has improved waveform and operates at extended ranges needed to achieve 5-star ratings for Euro NCAP.Veoneer's ADAS ECU is the 'ADAS brain' of the vehicle which hosts a sophisticated software feature stack along with feature software from other sensors to interpret the situation around the vehicle, and trigger ADAS features such as emergency braking or cross traffic alert.  Veoneer's ADAS ECU is designed to be an open scalable hardware and software architecture that hosts algorithms.  

"We are excited to start deliveries of Veoneer's fourth-generation mono vision cameras, upgraded 77GHz radars, ADAS ECUs and industry-leading feature software on the all-new Polestar 2, allowing drivers to interact with the Polestar and its surroundings in an advanced new way,"  Jan Carlson, Veoneer chairman, president and CEO said. 

"Veoneer is proud to bring new levels of safety and convenience to car drivers and occupants across the globe and the Polestar 2 is the first vehicle equipped with these advanced systems."

Mr Carlson said Veoneer, Inc. is a worldwide leader in automotive technology.

"Our purpose is to create trust in mobility," he said. "We design, manufacture and sell state-of-the-art software, hardware and systems for occupant protection, advanced driving assistance systems, and collaborative and automated driving to OEMs globally."

Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Veoneer has 7,600 employees in 13 countries. In 2019, sales amounted to $1.9 billion.

The company is building on a heritage of close to 70 years of automotive safety development. In 2018, Veoneer became an independent, publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: VNE) and on the Nasdaq Stockholm (SSE: VNE SDB).

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By Mike Sullivan >>

GENERAL MOTORS (GM) has retired what it referred to as ‘the Holden brand’ from sales in Australia and New Zealand. GM will also turn the lights out on its Australian design and engineering operations by 2021.

The slim glimmer of hope for Australia maintaining its capabilities in auto design on a global stage – Holden designers and engineers did, after all and against the corporate odds, develop GM Chevrolet’s wildly successful modern Camaro ‘pony car’ that famously starred in the Transformers movies and re-launched the brand – has been extinguished forever.

Perhaps a clue to what was to be in Holden’s future could have been drawn from the fact that even though that highly successful modern Camaro was designed and developed on Australian-made Commodore right-hand-drive underpinnings, it was never allowed to be made or sold here in local guise.

GM also announced on February 17 that Maven and Holden Financial Services operations would be wound down in Australia, in the same media statement, but the public seemed unbothered and it is unlikely tears would be shed for those operations. 

But Holden cars? That’s different …

 

‘DIFFICULT DECISION’ MADE EASY

The public statements by GM officials were big on staff and dealership empathy but small on real explanations for ‘Holden people’.

They were losing money … couldn’t justify new investment … global markets and free trade deals were involved somehow … no real numbers were offered and the old allegations that GM would have bailed out of Australia during the Global Financial Crisis (or Great Recession, in US parlance) had it not been for the regular supply of Federal Government money to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, seem more on the money than ever.

GM international operations senior vice president Julian Blissett said GM had taken the “difficult decision” after implementing and considering numerous options to maintain and turn around Holden operations. 

“Through its proud 160-year history, Holden has not only made cars, it has been a powerful driver of the industrialisation and advancement of Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Blissett said. 

“Over recent years, as the industry underwent significant change globally and locally, we implemented a number of alternative strategies to try to sustain and improve the business, together with the local team.”

A number of alternative strategies … was it one or 10 or 100 or a thousand? All are numbers. And what were these strategies, exactly? Surely, with a number of strategies the public would have been consulted on at least a few?   

Or maybe it’s like politics now and ‘data’ and polling and research fall wide of the mark, so it’s hard to draw decent conclusions. Holden’s strong enthusiast market was, after all, all but lost when manufacturing ceased here, so it was no use asking them.

What would they know? They are paying four or five times the price of a recent model Calais for a restored HQ Holden Statesman V8 … and a HK Monaro 327 V8 is worth a motza more than the current two-door sports couple offering … which is a? …oh, there isn’t one.  

The Holden-istas were probably too busy watching the Ford-Holden Supercars battles at Bathurst – cheering for Holdens – to fill in the unrewarding online surveys about the future of their chosen machines anyway.

So, Mr Blissett said GM undertook a detailed analysis of the investment required for Holden to be competitive beyond the current generation of products. He said factors impacting “the business case for further investment” included the highly fragmented right-hand-drive markets, the economics to support growing the brand, and delivering an appropriate return on investment.

“After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritise the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally,” Mr Blissett said.

Holden, a company with fiercely loyal customers in search of local GM cars that appeal to them, could not be profitable enough, fast enough. It seems.

It is a market problem with a solution abandoned long ago: make the cars in Australia that Australian people want to buy. Then export them to right-hand-drive markets with similar ideas and requirements (New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, New Guinea … the so-called fragmented markets are, what, too small?) 

“This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team.”  While that is true, it is also very, very sad.

It translates: the bean counters in the USA don’t think Australia amounts to a hill of beans.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE WIND TUNNEL?

GM did announce that it intended to focus its growth strategy in Australia and New Zealand on the “specialty vehicles business” and plans to immediately work with its partner on developing these plans.  

That partner (why didn’t they name them?) is probably HSV, part of the TWR motorsport empire and doing very well. HSV already does fine – thank you very much – out of converting big Chevy Silverado trucks and Camaros to right-hand drive and upgrading them for Australian conditions.

Rumour has it that they will be allowed to bring in the sensational new mid-engine Corvette – which can be manufactured on the line in right-hand drive – and that is sure to be a huge seller in Australia. It starts as a $60,000 car in the US and could possibly retail for under $100,000 in Australia, with a performance envelope that troubles far-more-expensive F-Type Jaguars, Ferarris, Maseratis, Porsches, BMWs and certain rare Japanese GT racers.

But in the absence of any confirmation of such refreshing speculation, GM officials were speaking with lips atremble at the media conference.

GM Holden interim chairman and managing director Kristian Aquilina said, given the significance of Holden through its history, it was “critical the company worked with all stakeholders to deliver a dignified and respectful wind-down”. 

“Holden will always have a special place in the development of our countries. As Australia and New Zealand grew, Holden was a part of the engine room fuelling that development,” Mr Aquilina said. 

“Today’s announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holdens, drive Holdens and feel connected to our company which has been with us for 160 years and is almost ubiquitous in our lives.  

“Unfortunately, all the hard work and talent of the Holden family, the support of our parent company GM and the passion of our loyal supporters have not been enough to overcome our challenges. 

“We understand the impact of this decision on our people, our customers, our dealers and our partners – and will work closely with all stakeholders to deliver a dignified and respectful transition.”  

But Holden customers near not fear, it’s all going to be fine … for a while, maybe 10 years, at least.

Holden spokespeople said customers can be assured that the company will honour all warranties and servicing offers made at time of sale. Holden “will provide servicing and spare parts for at least 10 years, through national aftersales networks in Australia and New Zealand”.

As required, the GM media release said, Holden and its aftersales network will also continue to handle any recalls or safety-related issues if they arise, working with the appropriate governmental agencies.  

“Impacted Holden employees will be provided separation packages and employment transition support,” the media release said. 

“Holden will work with its dealer network on appropriate transition arrangements, including offering dealers the opportunity to continue as authorized service outlets to support Holden customers,” the release also said.

What GM's release did not say was: “Sorry we let Australians – especially Holden people – down.”

What motoring enthuiasists wanted GM to say was: "Sorry we let you down, our company could not find a way to make Holden work profitably enought for us ....

"But it's okay, because we have left Holden's heritage and pedigree with a future, by selling it to an Australian company that can make it work. We wish it all the best for the future."

Great going, Holden.

www.holden.com.au

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JUST a few days since the shock announcement of General Motors' retirement of the Holden brand for good, the value of Holdens have been projected to have at least doubled, according to Lloyds Auctions.

“We have been flooded with enquiries coming through our Classic Car Division Nationwide over the last 24 hours or so with people wanting to buy a Holden showcasing a surge in demand for the vintage vehicles,” Lloyds auctions chief marketing officer Brett Mudie said.

“It really shows that the market has responded immediately and is indicating that the market for Holdens will sky rocket as we have seen the interest soar in the last day,” he said.

“The value of Holden Classics has always been strong but this evidence that has come to us in the last day suggests that it is more than likely to create a booming market for them,” Mr Mudie said. 

In the past Lloyds have broken multiple records across different model Holden classics, where the very first Holden Dealer Team HT Monaro 57D also sold for $500,000 in the same year.

“We actually anticipate that the HT Monaro 57D has doubled in value overnight being worth seven figures just under three years later,” Mr Mudie said.

A HSV GTS-R W1 even surpassed its recommended retail price at auction by six figures with the brand-new 2017 Holden W1 auctioned in the same year of its release.

A $2.1 million record was broken for Peter Brock's dual Bathurst winning VH Commodore back in October 2018.

The first 1977 A9X Torana off the production line also smashed Australian sale records selling for $365,000.

Mr Mudie said there was "no doubt that Australians love the iconic Holden brand and even enthusiasts from their biggest rival, Ford, don’t want to see Holden go.

“As a company very passionate about motoring we are saddened by the fact that we focus so much attention on important issues like these after the fact, when we have already lost something such as this iconic Aussie brand,”  Mr Mudie said.

“Holden is and will continue to be a part of many Australian households, back in the day you were either a Ford family or a Holden family and you would never actually date anyone who wasn’t passionate about the same car side as your family.

“For anyone unsure on what to do next we encourage them to jump on the phones and give us a call to discuss, we are more than happy to talk any time of the day,” Mr Mudie said.

www.lloydsauctions.com.au

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ONE of Australia’s most popular Australian motor racing teams, Walkinshaw Andretti United, has donated an inspirational package to raise funds for those affected in the current bushfire crisis.

The Melbourne-based race team will put to auction their six crew and two racing suits from the 2020 racing season, along with the winning bidders name or company inside driver Chaz Mostert’s car, and a weekend at this year’s Bathurst 1000 with the team. 

“We are honoured to be able to donate such a unique experience to the Lloyds Bushfire Relief Auction, with all of the proceeds going towards the Salvation Army,” Walkinshaw Andretti United co-team principal, Bruce Stewart said.

Lee Hames, chief operations officer at Lloyds Auctions, expressed his gratitude for the support from Walkinshaw Andretti United.

“We are blown away by this donation from the team at Walkinshaw, and we hope to raise a great amount of funds, with 100 percent of proceeds going towards the Salvation Army.

“This item is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we highly encourage all of those race car fans out there, who are able, to jump on and bid to help support our fellow Australians in need during this tough time,” Mr Hames said.

Walkinshaw Andretti United’s ultimate experience, going under the hammer, is just one of many enticing items on offer, with a series of Lloyds auctions to come over the coming weeks, potentially raising millions of dollars.

“We are still continuing to receive items, it has not slowed down, the phones are ringing,” Mr Hames said.

“We are very grateful for support we have received from the community, businesses and celebrities. We are continuing to process more items on the website every day and we are looking forward to raising funds to support those in need right now.” he said.

“As these unprecedented bushfires tear through Australia, we want to help as many fire-affected lives as possible.” 

Bidding for the Bushfire Relief Charity Auction is now live at www.lloydsauctions.com.au and items to add to the auction, such as rare items or experiences people can bid on, call Lloyds on 1800 456 588.

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