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Falcon ute's field of opportunity

Workhorse: Ford's current XR6 Cab Chassis.

Ford's upcoming Falcon cab-chassis ute to make hay as new Holden Ute hits the beach

Ford logo18 Sep 2007


FORD Australia believes it has been handed the opportunity to expand its already significant pick-up advantage over Holden when the next-generation Falcon utility is launched in the second quarter of next year.

Unlike its long-time rival, which has deserting the cab-chassis market with the new VE Ute that launches next month, Ford has confirmed the new Falcon range would again include a cab-chassis work ute.

Holden discontinued its VZ One Tonner last year and has decided to concentrate on the “recreational” market with the VE Ute, foregoing a cab-chassis variant in favour of offering only a unitary tray.

“We think it creates a real opportunity for us, to be blunt,” said Ford Australia president Tom Gorman last week.

“(Holden has) already exited that business, so that gives us a great opportunity... and we’re going to give a very exciting and very dynamic product to the market when we launch all-new Falcon ute next year.

“You are going to get a combination of a true work truck, which we think is important in this segment, as well as what we call a ‘dual-use’ customer.

"There are both dual-use and private use customers that really do like the car-derived pick-up (over a full-chassis imported ute), so we think we are in a better position strategically, frankly, in that we haven’t walked away from the work truck marketplace.”

27 center imageLeft: Ford Ranger.

Ford has largely reigned supreme in the two-horse car-based ute market since the AU was launched in 1999 – one of the few positives for Broadmeadows in that time – but the market has been shrinking.

Sales have been going to more truck-like one-tonners like Ford’s own Ranger, which not only offer four-wheel drive as well as rear-drive only, but also turbo-diesel engine options.

From a high watermark of just over 20,000 Falcon utes in both 2002 and 2003, sales dropped to 15,858 last year and have declined a further 13.7 per cent this year.

Holden has fared even worse, having dropped from market leadership of 20,800 with the VZ in 2004 (plus 1325 4x4 versions) to only 13,377 last year (plus 697).

With the VZ in run-out, sales dropped a further 29.1 per cent in the first eight months of this year.

Despite the impact of one-tonners, including Ford’s own Ranger, which are running at record levels, Mr Gorman believes that both Commodore and Falcon will bounce back.

“It’s down, there’s no question,” said Mr Gorman, “but we think that that segment’s going to bounce back.

“It’s down for a couple of reasons the success of the one-tonners – Ranger, HiLux and Navara to mention three – with a move to 4x4 from 4x2 that’s impacting the car-derived segment as well, and also the age of the product – you’ve got two fairly old products against a lot of new product.

“By the time you come to the middle of next year, you’re going to have a new Holden product, you’re going to have a new Ford product and I think the fresh sheet metal on top of what I think is a great value story is going to bump up the car-derived mix of the total pick-up segment.

“And we think that we can get more than our fair share of that because our strategy is quite different from Holden’s.” Mr Gorman said that Ford would have to get across the “great cost of ownership message” of its dedicated LPG gas version.

Falcon jobs could go off-shore

FORD Australia president Tom Gorman has assured 120 employees they will retain their jobs at Broadmeadows, despite a plan to outsource seat trim for the next generation Falcon.

Mr Gorman confirmed the out-sourcing plan, but would not comment on reports that Futuris Corporation had already been selected, saying only that Futuris is a candidate.

Union leaders are concerned about the amount of work going offshore, saying that they believe Futuris will produce the seat trim in Thailand.

“All that we announced to the union is that we have an intention to outsource seat trim,” said Mr Gorman. “I think we are the only Ford plant in the world that still does it (in-house).

“We’ve also told our people that we have available to them 100 per cent redeployment, so all affected employees will have an opportunity to stay with Ford if they elect to do that.” Asked if next year’s all-new model would have the lowest-ever local content for a Falcon, Mr Gorman said he would prefer to wait until closer to the launch to reveal the source of “major components and systems”.

“The world is getting more competitive,” said Mr Gorman.

“(Local content) will be an issue and it’s about us remaining competitive in what is a global market.

“At times, even at Ford, we can be a little myopic and say our competitor is Holden but that isn’t the answer – this market is now 80 per cent imports and we compete against more marques per capita in Australia than any other market in the world.

“You have to be globally competitive to be able to fight that fight.”

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