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Ford  Volatile: crude oil prices remain above the $US50 mark.

Volatile: crude oil prices remain above the $US50 mark.

Ford concerned about fuel prices, but is not about to panic

SURGING world crude oil prices concern Ford Australia chief Tom Gorman but he is not about to panic at rising fuel pump prices around the nation.

"I think we’re in a period of very volatile oil prices but so far it has not appeared to affect consumer buying habits," he said.

Mr Gorman said the strength of the overall industry was still very strong, as was the desire for large vehicles "whether they be SUVs or large rear-wheel drive cars".

Despite fuel prices breaking through the $1.16-per-litre mark in Melbourne for the first time on record last weekend, and rising well over $1 in other metropolitan cities, Mr Gorman believed buyers would steel themselves for higher short-term prices.

"We obviously keep a close eye on it. There are some things you can do tactically but not a lot ... and then there are the structural changes that take longer to put in, and that’s changing technologies, whether you do more with diesel or hybrid/electric or change the line-up completely to produce more small cars," he said.

However, Mr Gorman warned that such changes were "massive time changes" and Ford did not anticipate a complete backflip in any of its programs.

"Fuel economy and fuel efficiency is always on our radar though," he added. "I would say that’s one of the top objectives in the next round of freshenings."

Mr Gorman said it was his belief there would not be a wholesale buyer departure from larger rear-wheel drive cars, utilities, sedans and 4WD wagons.

Despite a softening in international crude oil prices early this week, peak levels are hovering above $US50 a barrel.

Overall, crude oil prices are more than 25 per cent above levels at the beginning of the year, driven by strong global demand, particularly in the United States, and concerns about a shortage in refining capacity.



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