QUESTION: What's the story behind Ford stealing the Telstra passenger car fleet from Holden?
BILL TUCKEY: Its rivals complain that Holden can seem to do no wrong but after 10 years it's lost its Telstra passenger vehicle contract, the fleet contract to Ford. Ford has picked up a two year contract with a third year option worth $1.2 million to supply 4,500 Falcon sedans and wagons, the workhorses of the Telstra fleet, and they'll be Series 3 units which will be unveiled to us next week.
Ford Australia President Geoff Polites told me, quote, "We didn't buy the contract, we just had a hard working lunch with people who worked their bums off to get it."
Now, it's very important to Ford. Their fleet percentage of total sales is about 70% but 83% of Falcons go to fleets. It's so important, this Telstra contract, that it's believed Holden actually designed the VT Commodore, that was mid-1997, the wagon, to Telstra specs.
Telstra is, of course, the biggest fleet in Australia with 26,000 vehicles of all types. This one, believe you me, hurt Holden quite a lot although they haven't mentioned it yet.
QUESTION: How did Ford do it, after 10 years?
BILL TUCKEY: Ford, along with the three other carmakers, worked with Telstra for 12 months on the terms and conditions of the contract before anything was signed on price. Telstra is more interested in the relationship it has with its supplier in terms of service, recalls, warranty, specifications and delivery.
Now, most of those 4,500 cars will be LPG dedicated. Ford's the only manufacturer doing LPG only cars and most will be in the cities, to tie in with Telstra's desire to make a contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the contract, incidentally, provides that if one runs out of gas Ford will tow it to the nearest supplier. You can't fill up an LPG car by the side of the road. And what helped? I guess being involved with V8 Supercars, that didn't hurt at all.