Tuesday, 22 November 2016 10:04

Ford Deal Would Have Changed Face of New Zealand Economy

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Henry Ford offered Keith Holyoake a game changer.

| Napier - MSCNewsWire - Tuesday 22 Nov, 2016 | Just over a half century  ago Henry Ford proposed to New Zealand prime minister Keith Holyoake a deal that would have forever changed the face of the economy. The deal was this...

If the New Zealand government would allow Ford to bring its cars into New Zealand fully built-up and ready for the road, then the Ford Motor Company, said Mr Ford (pictured at the time) would make New Zealand one of its key centres globally for the supply of castings and forgings.

At this time New Zealand was the acknowledged leader in castings and forgings in Oceania.

The problem the industry had was short-run production. There was not the scale for the long runs required to embed the industry so that it did not have to be protected, which it was, and heavily.

This was the height of the protectionist era. The Ford cars were shipped into New Zealand as kitsets, known as CKDs – completely knocked down. In effect, disassembled vehicles. These were reassembled again in the Hutt Valley providing immense employment and thus contributing to the reverse unemployment of that era. Too many jobs. Not enough people to do them.

The Ford Motor Co had seen all this. Now was the time to put forward the offset in the form of designating New Zealand as what would now be known as a centre of “ excellence” for castings and forgings components.

In the event premier Keith Holyoake whose operating principle was “steady as she goes” turned down the scheme and the CKDs poured into New Zealand for another 20 years.