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High fuel prices put acid on diesel for Territory

Force-fed: Ford launches its Territory Turbo next month, but a diesel version should follow.

Ford gets serious about a turbo-diesel Territory as fuel prices continue to soar

18 May 2006

FORD Australia is actively scouring the Ford world for a suitable diesel engine for the Territory following a fall in demand for petrol-powered medium-sized 4WDs.

Ford research is showing that diesel-powered medium 4WDs are not seeing sales reductions compared with petrol-powered model variants. In the first four months of 2005, 18,370 petrol-powered medium SUVs were sold. But this has fallen to around 14,900 during the same period this year in the face of higher petrol prices.

In contrast, diesel sales in this segment have risen from 4518 to 4811 and share is up from 19.7 per cent to 24.4 per cent.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman acknowledged last week that while Territory was still capturing more than 40 per cent of the petrol medium SUV market, it was a declining segment.

He said Ford’s "buyer and rejector" studies showed that "there are clearly customers who have a strong bias towards diesel and we are not going to convince them to buy a Territory".

"As the diesel market has grown as a percentage of the total, our ability to be successful is somewhat limited until a point in time that we might get a diesel in there," he said.

Mr Gorman said the company was "still working hard on" choosing a suitable diesel engine from the Ford world.

"You could name more than four or five competent diesel engines that we have around the world.

"But dropping them into a Territory, getting them to fit, getting them to work hooked up to our gearbox is a significant engineering effort and we are still evaluating (our options)." GoAuto has learned that one of these is a version of the 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel that powers Land Rover's Discovery, which is under consideration as a single-turbo (rather than bi-turbo) version.

Asked if the price of diesel was rising to a level where there was no longer a saving in buying a diesel-powered vehicle, Mr Gorman said: "The economics do not make sense.

"I have said that repeatedly: if you look at the premium consumers pay for a diesel powertrain, they do not earn that back in the short term." He said buyers were attracted by the new levels of sophistication in modern diesel engines.

"Common rail technology is driving very good performance diesels of which Ford has many. Great low-end torque, great performance feel and they are quieter. So that is part of why people are moving in that direction.

"But you would not do it if you were making a logical and rational economic decision."

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Ford's newest diesel is formidable

A joint-venture engine developed by both Ford's luxury arm PAG and the PSA Peugeot-Citroen group, the 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel (left) powers everything from Land Rover's Discovery to Peugeot's new 407 Coupe and Jaguar's forthcoming S-Type diesel.

Displacing 2720cc, it's built on a compacted graphite-iron block with aluminium cylinder-heads, quad camshafts, four valves per cylinder and two variable-geometry, intercooled turbochargers.

The result is just 15kg more than Jaguar's equivalent V6 petrol unit.

In the Disco it delivers 140kW and a healthy 445Nm of torque, while in the 407 Coupe guise it offers 150kW at 4000rpm and 440Nm from just 1900rpm.

The state-of-the-art V6 is built at Ford’s "centre of diesel excellence" in Dagenham, and first appeared in the S-Type - in which it's dubbed AJD-V6.

LPG Falcons boom

ESCALATING petrol prices have fuelled a 40 per cent increase in demand for original equipment LPG Falcons.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman has acknowledged that LPG-equipped cars were "already playing a bigger role" in Ford’s future.

"The economics of a dedicated LPG are quite real," he said. "You can earn back the premium you pay for a dedicated LPG car in about 13 months.

"That is a sound economic decision." Demand had prompted the company to increase the capacity from its suppliers of LPG fuel systems.

He said sales of LPG Falcons and Falcon utes were up 40 per cent in the first quarter this year over the first quarter last year.

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