Ford Australia workers could be forced to take crucial pay cuts heading into Christmas after sales of the company's locally made Falcon and Territory variants failed to improve during August.
Monthly figures released on Wednesday by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries will confirm that Falcon sales have dipped to their lowest levels in 53 years, with about 580 vehicles sold during August. Preliminary numbers also show the Falcon's SUV 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 Blue Oval brand compared with the corresponding period last year.
Ford Australia is halfway through a 12-day shutdown spread across August and September. Of Ford's 1200 manufacturing employees, 750 have been stood down on half-wages, 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 now consider whether to schedule more down days at its Broadmeadows plant in the approach to Christmas. It is understood the federal election result on Saturday will be a key consideration.
Ford spokeswoman Sinead Phipps said six of the 12 shutdown days already flagged were directly attributable to recent changes to the fringe benefits tax. The controversial FBT adjustments, labelled by the car industry 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," she 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."
Dave Smith, the national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union vehicle division, disputed the significance of the recent FBT changes.
"To be quite honest, I'm pretty dirty," he said of Ford Australia's reaction to the 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. 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 decision.
Ford arch-rival Holden mostly weathered the so-called effects of FBT changes in August by posting about 2800 sales of its new VF Commodore, an increase of 400 cars compared with August 2012.
The Mazda3 was the top-selling car in August with 4180 sales, ahead of the Toyota Corolla (3680), which remains the highest seller for the first eight months of the year.