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FPV to stay Falcon only
Big and sporty: FPV will concentrate on developing Falcon-based performance vehicles only in the near future.
Despite declining sales, Ford performance arm FPV sticks with what it knows best
14 August 2012
FORD Performance Vehicles will stick to its guns with a Falcon-based range of sedans and utes, precluding the possible return of a Territory-based SUV or smaller four-cylinder models such as a Focus-derived hot hatch in the foreseeable future.
However, the company – which is a 51/49 per cent joint venture between Prodrive and Ford Australia – will not comment on specific future product or activity, including whether it is working on a replacement for the existing Falcon range of vehicles beyond 2016.
FPV also would not reveal whether it plans to develop faster versions of Ford’s latest-generation EcoBoost engine – either the current four-cylinder or the V6 yet to come here – that are expected to be the heart of Ford’s next generation of family cars.
“I am in no position to say – you will have to ask Ford,” FPV managing director Bryan Mears told GoAuto this week in his first interview since the company went through another restructure at the end of May, with general manager Rod Barrett among the casualties.
Mr Mears is striving to keep customers interested in a brand that has gone through its share of peaks and troughs since forming 10 years ago this month.
“While the market has changed and a lot of Australians are saying they don’t want to buy a big rear-wheel drive vehicle, there’s still a part of the market that says: ‘Hey! We really want this sort of car.’
From top: FPV managing director Bryan Mears; FPV F6; F6 E; GT-P.
“So if we didn’t produce this type of vehicle, if we didn’t keep renewing ourselves and developing vehicles that people want, then obviously we would be out of business.”
Mr Mears said FPV is concentrating on making the best performance car in Australia’s history and cannot afford to digress into niches that may not be beneficial for the brand.
“The Territory (in 2008) demonstrated to us that people were not prepared to buy a homegrown high-performance SUV,” he told us.
“Those people lucky enough to have one will know how good they are, but I don’t think we’ll do anything there, to be honest.
“The development of products in the future is dependent on what we do with this vehicle (Falcon).”
Though FPV traditionally does not release sales figures or projections, Mr Mears said the short-term goal is to crack the 2000 annual sales mark, though it is considerably short of that goal.
“In terms of the numbers going through the business, it is less than the previous year, which was less than the year before that,” said Mr Mears.
“I’d like to take a bigger market share. I’m disappointed that we’re not selling as many of these vehicles that the investment warrants.
“Having said that, the last couple of months have been stunning. I’m very happy with the results.
“I’d certainly like more. We don’t talk about numbers, but in the order of about 2000 units a year is not a bad starting point.
“We’re getting back to the numbers that is counter to the trends in the market place. So what we’re doing in the market is we’re getting back to the running rates that I’m much more comfortable with.
“You know all the factors affecting people’s confidence. There’s a lot of that in the mix. So if a lot more people have a lot more confidence in the marketplace or what’s happening in the Australian economy and all of those things, people will come in. I do think there is a pent-up demand.”
Mr Mears described the latest cutbacks at FPV’s Campbellfield headquarters just north of Melbourne – which is believed to have made around 12 staff members redundant – as necessary to address “a major structural problem”.
“It wasn’t done for survival in the sense that ‘if we don’t do that we’ll close the doors’.
“The reality is that we’re all in business – whether it is automotive manufacturing or making ice-creams – for a reason, and we need to ensure that our costs are managed well.
“Ford, like GMH and Toyota, are tailoring their businesses to demand going forward. There’s a whole range of reasons that are in play, and we’re no different to anybody else.
“In real terms, it was a major structural problem that we had to address, and people had to leave.”
FPV will push its new GT RSPEC model from early September on the back of the Bathurst 1000 and exposure from the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.
Racing legend Allan Moffat and current V8 Supercar championship contender Will Davison will step up their roles as brand ambassadors, featuring in a new light-hearted advertising campaign.
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