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Doubts surround future of Ford Fiesta in Australia

Active duty: Ford has revealed a tough ‘Active’ crossover version of its Fiesta hatch, but it is unknown if it will be coming to Australia.

Ford Australia could be forced to make do without new-generation Fiesta light car

Ford logo26 Jun 2017

FORD Australia is still yet to confirm whether the seventh-generation Fiesta light car – revealed over six months ago in Europe – will make its way into local dealerships, leaving the future of the brand’s most affordable model in doubt.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the new Transit Custom, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said the company will reveal its plans for the future of the Fiesta and Focus in due course.

“We haven’t talked about next-generation Fiesta or pretty much any of those products of that ilk, including the Focus,” he said. “And when we’re ready we will talk about it.”

Rumours have circulated that the current Thailand production facility, from which Ford Australia sources most of the existing Fiesta range, will not build the new-generation light car and importing the car from Europe will not make a viable business case.

The situation is also similar for the Focus small car, with the bulk of the current line-up imported from Thailand and a recent announcement revealing the incoming fourth-generation car will be built in China and imported to western markets including North America.

High-performing variants including the Fiesta ST, Focus ST and Focus RS however, are built and imported from a Ford production site in Germany.

However, Mr Whickman said plans for the future of both models would not be readily divulged given the sensitive nature of the strategy for its upcoming products.

“We concentrate on the vehicles we have or about to have, we don’t forecast what is going to happen in two or three or four years,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a closely guarded secret, and so we don’t want to signal or flag to our competitors when we’ll have vehicles and in what flavour – it’s the rules of engagement.”

Nevertheless, manufacturers are usually quick to announce vague timing or at least confirmation of new and incoming models years in advance of the actual vehicles landing in Australian showrooms.

Further evidence is mounting against the case for a new-gen Fiesta as Australians turn away from the quickly shrinking light car segment in favour of SUVs and crossovers.

For the first five months of the year, Ford has sold 716 Fiestas – a significant 40.3 per cent decrease over the same period last year – while the entire light car segment is down 16.7 per cent year-to-date with its total of 32,954 making up about 7.1 per cent of all new cars sold so far this year.

Ford’s Fiesta has also been on a steady sales slide since 2011 when it amassed 12,286 sales for the year, culminating in a 2016 sales total of just 2722 units – shedding around 77.9 per cent in six years.

Competition in the light car segment has also decreased, with the likes of the Fiat Punto, Hyundai i20 and Nissan Almera all being discontinued in recent years.

On the other hand, while Ford’s Focus is enjoying a sales resurgence this year with 2635 new registrations for the first five months of the year – a 10.2 per cent increase year-on-year – the small car has been losing sales since 2013 when it hit a total of 19,180 units sold and only managed 6783 last year.

Australia’s sub-$40,000 small car segment is dominated by the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, which have respectively sold 15,624 and 14,562 units for the first five months of 2017.

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.