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Ford wants Australia to be Kuga country

Escape plan: Kuga went on sale in the UK in April this year.

The fate of Ford's funky new Kuga compact SUV rides on Asia-Pacific regional deals

18 Aug 2008

THE future of Ford's stylish new Kuga compact SUV for Australia – either as an import or for local production – is dependent on other countries in the Asia-Pacific region joining the program to provide the required volumes.

Ford Australia president Bill Osborne told GoAuto that he is keen to get the Kuga to Australia as a replacement for the ageing Escape and remains hopeful, if not confident.

Mr Osborne said that “it wasn’t looking very good” a couple of months ago, but indicated that the prospects had recently improved, although he would not elaborate.

Earlier this year, Mr Osborne told us that Kuga would be considered for local production because it is based on the Focus, which goes into production at Broadmeadows in 2011.

He remains enthusiastic about the vehicle, describing it as “a great product”, and is unconcerned by the recent decline in compact SUV sales in Australia.

“I don’t think the current state of the compact SUV market is a long-term trend,” he said at Ford's monthly media briefing last Wednesday.

“I think compact SUVs will continue to grow, and we continue to look at it [Kuga] both as an imported product and as a potential to be built here in Australia.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Escape.

“But I need to emphasis that we are planning as part of a region, so our ability to bring in Kuga would be part of a regional strategy, not an Australian strategy, so we need to have consensus with the entire Asia-Pacific region.

“There are fewer and fewer individual products being brought into individual markets so, even if we have a strong business case for it, it’s very important for the entire region to have enough volume to make it sustainable.

“We are in the middle of working out those plans at the regional level. The product would only be available to us if it was available to a number of other markets in the region.

“My assumption is it would replace Escape were we to bring it in. I don’t believe we would need two SUVs in the same segment – one modern and one dated.”

Mr Osborne said that Escape sales have been impacted by the weakness in the compact SUV market, but nevertheless said that sales (down 24.6 per cent this year) were very disappointing and “well short of our expectations”.

“We have not aggressively marketed the vehicle,” he said of the Escape.

“We had a tendency to focus on other vehicles in our portfolio. It just wasn’t a priority for us and I consider that a failure on our part. Escape was not a priority and the sales result is a reflection of that.”

Read more:

Five stars for Ford's Kuga

Escape on all fours

Ford Australia could build Kuga

First look: Kuga breaks Ford's cover early

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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