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Ford  Optimistic: Blue Oval boss Tom Gorman says that despite losing buyers to Territory, Falcon had a successful 2005 - "on balance".

Optimistic: Blue Oval boss Tom Gorman says that despite losing buyers to Territory, Falcon had a successful 2005 - "on balance".

Ford boss says the one million new-vehicle sales year will be 2007 at the earliest


THE magic million sales forecast won't happen this year and is unlikely to happen next year, according to Ford Australia president Tom Gorman.

Mr Gorman believes the total market will fall just shy of one million new vehicle sales, but it will still be a record year and the fourth year in a row of bumper sales.

Based on the runaway sales performance throughout the year, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries had tipped a one million year but since October there has been a softening in retail interest.

This has prompted some analysts to suggest the boom times over the past few years have finally plateaued.

According to last month’s VFACTS industry figures supplied by the FCAI, the year-to-date market was 908,992, which means the December sales month would have to deliver more than 90,000 sales to achieve one million.

Based on Ford’s own internal data, Mr Gorman believes the market this month will be in the 80,000-unit range with the total 2005 figure likely to be around 990,000 to 995,000.

Unlike some other car industry leaders, Mr Gorman has consistently maintained a more conservative outlook on sales throughout the year.

Next year, he believes the market will reach 980,000, which is also in line with some leading economic forecasters.

Buoyed by new product and strong consumer sentiment, Mr Gorman believes 2006 will still be a strong year, with some strengthening in the large car segment because of new arrivals.

Like this year, small cars too are expected to dominate, commanding about 22 per cent of the market, the same as this year.

This year buyers have benefited from a raft of new products, favourable exchange rates and tariffs, which Mr Gorman believes had subsequently affected the large car segment by enabling imported products to be pitched at more aggressive prices.

The ageing of some of the large car contenders this year had also weighed against the segment, he said.

This had drawn away some Falcon and Commodore buyers to vehicles like mid-size offerings like the Honda Accord and Mazda6.

Ford expects the arrival of the new Camry, VE Commodore and the growing awareness of the Mitsubishi 380 and BF Falcon would help lead a surge of interest in large cars through 2006.

"So on balance, there are a lot of reasons for optimism," he said.

The Falcon, despite the growing interest in Territory, has managed to hold its sales ground this year.

"We were able to hold our share of the large car segment; relatively flat despite a one percentage point movement," he said.

"I view that as a success because obviously some of our customers have drifted over to buy Territorys."

Based on year-to-date sales figures to November, the Falcon had a 34.9 per cent share of the large car market, compared to a YTD share last year of 35.9 per cent so although that has been some Falcon leakage to Territory it is shows conquest sales for the marque.

Although Ford is pleased with the performance of its larger vehicles, Mr Gorman said there was still room for improvement with Fiesta and Focus.

Despite managing 825 Focus sales last month, Ford has had issues with the model mix as many buyers are opting for high series cars over the entry-level CL.

Mr Gorman said that once this was addressed in the first quarter of 2006 he was confident of achieving around 2000 Focus sales a month.

Ford will also leverage the brand with the arrival next year of the XR5 turbo Focus and the company is known to be looking at introducing the Focus Cabrio, a hardtop convertible based on the Vignale show car shown at last year’s Paris motor show.

A station wagon and a possible diesel variant are also being considered.

"We think we have a great car," he said. "The XR5 presents a great opportunity for us to build a halo and we’ve got a lot more plans to extend the brand on Focus but we’ve got to get some traction."




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