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Ford works on better sales mix across range

Top tier: Ford is counting on the all-new Endura to bolster its sales and help it be seen as a brand that offers a wide range of models beyond Ranger and Mustang.

SUVs key as Ford boss aims to ‘build out’ heavy sales reliance on Mustang, Ranger

Ford logo12 Jun 2018

By TUNG NGUYEN

FORD Australia is looking to cultivate a more diverse sales volume model mix as more than two thirds of the Blue Oval’s tally so far this year are made up of just two vehicles – the Mustang sportscar and Ranger pick-up.
 
At the launch of the new V8 Mustang GT muscle car in Adelaide last week, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman told GoAuto that the brand would seek to grow sales of other models in line with shifting market preferences from passenger cars to crossovers. 
 
“We’d like to grow them more, and as we launch more SUVs I’m hoping we will become better known for our SUV range,” he said.
 
“I think we will build it out, but at the same time we’re not going to be embarrassed or excuse the demand we have of Ranger or Mustang because I think we have some products that are hitting some consumer requirements.
 
“But it would be nice to continue to build it out.”
 
Of its model range, the Ranger pick-up is by far the biggest seller, finding 17,338 homes in the first five months of the year and representing nearly 60 per cent of Ford’s 28,951 year-to-date volume.
 
Mustang remains in second place, despite its near 40 per cent slump this year. Its 2285 sales to the end of May represent 7.9 per cent of Ford’s total sales, while last year it accounted for 11.7 per cent over the full 12 months. 
 
The Ranger-based Everest is currently close behind on 2285 units – up 43.7 per cent YTD – and will come in for an update in the fourth quarter, joining the refreshed Ranger due September and the just-launched facelifted Mustang as the three main pillars of the Blue Oval brand in Australia this year.
 
Mr Whickman also singled out the Transit commercial van range as a strong performer, accruing 1094 combined sales of the Custom, Heavy and Bus to the end of May that represent a 39 per cent increase over the same period last year. 
 
Also due to hit showrooms before year’s end is the Endura large SUV, known as the Edge in overseas markets, which is expected to be pitched as a more premium crossover experience than the Everest.
 
However, Mr Whickman would not be drawn on sales expectations for the all-new model that will be offered solely in five-seat diesel-powered configuration.
 
“The part of the market that that vehicle (Endura) goes into is probably around five to six per cent of the industry, but I see it growing – it’s more of a medium crossover-type, not a medium (SUV) traditionally,” he said.
 
“Whatever volume we arrive at will be constrained by that part of the segment, the part of the industry it operates in.
 
“My hope, frankly, is that it’s a great step up vehicle from the Escape and we’re offering a great alternative vehicle to customers which hasn’t existed before.
 
“But I wouldn’t put a sales volume on it, I’m not brave enough to think that through at this point.”
 
The Escape has notched up 2048 units to the end of May, putting it fifth behind the Focus (2207) on Ford’s hierarchy, but well behind mid-size SUV segment leaders including the Mazda CX-5 (10,711), Toyota RAV4 (9080), Nissan X-Trail (8373), Hyundai Tucson (8280) and Mitsubishi Outlander (6773).
 
Pricing for the Escape kicks off at $28,490 (plus on-road costs) and tops out at $47,490, and the expected four-variant Endura line-up is rumoured to kick off from the mid-to-high-$40,000 bracket to complete Ford’s SUV range that opens with the compact EcoSport (from $22,790).
 
EcoSport is also set to become the entry point to Ford’s entire range following the company’s decision not to import mainstream variants of the new-generation Fiesta light car, which will only be available from Europe. It has committed to the ST sports variant due in the second quarter of next year.
 
Sales of the EcoSport have dropped by 27.2 per cent this year despite an update hitting showrooms just six months ago, with only 402 new registrations to the end of May. 
 
Comparatively, Ford has recorded only 389 Fiesta sales, marking a 45.7 per cent downturn.
 
Overall, the booming sub-$40,000 small SUV market has amassed 49,327 sales so far this year to account for 10.4 per cent of the entire new-vehicle market, while the sub-$25,000 light passenger car segment makes up 6.5 per cent on 30,967 units.
 
Mr Whickman said the shift to buyer preference towards SUVs played a part in Ford’s shrinking light-car segment share, and that reaction to the discontinuation of the mainstream Fiesta line-up has been subdued.
 
“Actually very little feedback in terms of the cessation of the other parts of Fiesta, I think people’s preferences are changing, as we know,” he said.
 
“The importance of that has become lesser, we’re seeing a lot of activity in the Focus-sized part of the market and the Escape parts of the market, you know small SUVs and smaller cars. So it’s been pretty muted from a wider Fiesta point of view and pretty exciting from an ST point of view.”
 
However, Mr Whickman said Ford will still have compelling offerings for customers on a budget including the new-generation Focus that is confirmed for Australian showrooms before year’s end.
 
“We have an EcoSport, it’s one of the faster growing parts of the SUV market – and in fact any part of the market – it’s grown quite a lot in percentage terms in the last two or three years,” he said.
 
“So we’ve got an EcoSport sitting there, and we will bring in and launch Focus at the end of the year – that will be an accessible car to the mainstream in Australia – so I think I see us as being in a position to offer vehicles to people who have certain budgets for sure.”
 
Ford Australia also offers the Mondeo sedan and wagon range in the declining sub-$60,000 medium car segment. 
 
Mondeo sales are down 33.6 per cent this year with 918 new registrations, enough for third place behind the Toyota Camry (6116) and Mazda6 (1270).

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