Ford Australia workers could be forced to take pay cuts heading into Christmas after sales of the company's locally-made Falcon and Territory variants failed to improve last month.
Monthly figures released on Wednesday by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries confirm that Falcon sales have dipped to their lowest levels in 53 years, with about 580 vehicles sold last month. Preliminary numbers also show the Falcon's sports utility vehicle sibling, the Territory, fell to about 800 sales during the same month.
The performances contributed to a 20 per cent drop in overall sales for the brand, compared with the corresponding period last year.
Ford Australia is halfway through a 12-day shutdown period spread across August and September. Of Ford's 1200 manufacturing employees, 750 have been stood down on half-wages during the down days, with the option of topping up their salaries using annual leave entitlements.
The August sales result followed a previous record low of 594 Falcons sales during July.
Ford will consider whether to schedule more down days at its Broadmeadows plant before Christmas. Saturday's election result will be a key consideration.
Ford spokeswoman Sinead Phipps said that six of the 12 shutdown days already flagged were attributable to changes to the fringe benefits tax. The controversial FBT adjustments, labelled by the car industry as a $1.8 billion rort, have become an important policy issue.
"The 12 days that we currently have are spread equally across August and September, and we'll see what happens in September before we decide if we need to do any more or not," Ms Phipps said.
"The [August] figures are in line with what our dealers were reporting back when the FBT changes were implemented, so there was no great surprise."
The national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's vehicle division, Dave Smith, disputed the significance of the FBT changes. "The government announced the changes to the FBT and it was only a matter of days that the company was out announcing more down days," he said.
"Ford have made a decision to pull the pin on manufacturing in Australia - it's no coincidence that there's been a massive drop in their sales. It's a direct result of that."
In May, Ford Australia boss Bob Graziano announced that the company would cease its manufacturing operations in Australia in 2016, citing a $600 million loss during the previous five years.
Global president Alan Mulally last month refused to rule out stopping local manufacturing before the planned 2016 shutdown.