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Ford set to confirm SUV plans

New territories: Ford is yet to announce the replacement for the Territory (below), but the most logical model in the global portfolio is still the Edge (left).

Territory replacement to be confirmed by end of year as Ford shores up SUV line-up

Ford logo4 Aug 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON in THAILAND

FORD Australia is set to reveal its plans for a replacement for the locally produced Territory SUV by the end of this year.

As GoAuto has reported, the most logical replacement in Ford’s global product portfolio is the Edge SUV, which Ford currently produces in five-seat guise in Canada and seven-seat guise in China.

The Blue Oval is believed to have ruled out sourcing models from China, but most offerings in Australia’s sub-$60,000 large SUV segment are available as a seven-seater – or at least with an optional third row. The most notable exception is the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

As previously reported, the American-focused Explorer has been ruled out as it is only built in left-hand drive, and it is unclear if Ford has another unknown model in its product pipeline that could fill the gap instead of the Edge.

Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood would not be drawn on the origins of the Territory replacement, but added that the company would make the right decision for the Australian market.

“We have the goods, we really think we have the vehicles to match peoples’ needs,” he said at the Everest first drive in Chiang Rai, Thailand, last week.

“It is a matter of going after the right selection. We have the good problem of having a lot of vehicles to choose from. So we just have got to be smart about it. We do see opportunity to grow with the market and we have already been doing it and there is certainly more opportunity.”

There is also speculation Ford Australia will retain the Territory moniker for its future large SUV offering given its strong brand value with local buyers.

Mr Sherwood said that the rugged Everest that lands in Australian dealerships in October is not a Territory replacement, suggesting there is room for more than one larger SUV in Ford’s Aussie line-up.

“We haven’t said it’s a Territory replacement. We have certainly more to talk about. Overall the SUV market is expanding globally, we believe we have a leading line-up of SUVs that do very well around the world and we have a lot of them here already but there are certainly more opportunities,” he said.

“It’s an important market and we aim to cover that market appropriately and compete for our fair share.

“We are planning to replace the Territory still.”

When asked if another seven-seater, such as the European-market S-Max MPV or the related US-market version known as the Galaxy, could fill a gap as another seven-seat offering in Australia, Mr Sherwood remained coy.

“We are not getting into that right now, but there are a lot of opportunities, and that’s what we have been doing the past few years, is really trying to work out what is the best because we can’t have them all. We have got to be really smart about that,” he said.

In terms of a potential return to the large passenger car segment, perhaps with a more niche, premium offering rather than a volume seller, Mr Sherwood said the popularity of SUVs meant that it was unlikely, but that Ford was better placed than ever to respond to shifts in the market.

“That (SUV sales) has been an undeniable trend at the expense of large cars.

But nobody has a crystal ball, you just don’t know. We have the goods, we have vehicles out there, we have more coming. We have got the (Lincoln) Continental coming now. Lincoln is obviously not a brand we have here (in Australia).

“We do have vehicles, but … if you look at what luxury marques are doing they are all going SUVs. Porsche sales in China are 90 per cent SUVs.

“That’s where we are at right now, we are addressing the market. But we have built in the flexibility.

“Ten years ago we couldn’t adjust real quickly and now we can quicker. It’s not an overnight process anymore. That’s part of what we have been shaping the company to become – more responsive.”

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