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Falcon ute swooped by Holden

Falcon ute falls victim to Holden rival for the first time in five years

Ford logo25 Feb 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

FORD’S share of the Aussie ute market it has owned for five years has continued to slide this year, and the local Blue Oval chief says it’s all Territory’s fault.

Holden’s Commodore-based ute outsold Falcon ute on a monthly basis for the first time in two years last October and Holden went on to win the 2004 locally-built ute sales battle 20,813 to 20,123.

Holden’s 26.2 per cent ute market share in 2004, compared with Ford’s Falcon ute share of 25.4 per cent, represented the first time since the VS-versus-XH ute battle in 1998 that Commodore ute outsold Falcon ute for a full year.

Ford president Tom Gorman said in November that losing ute market leadership to Holden was "not the end of the world" but did constitute "a pride point and something we keep an eye on".

However, Ford’s ute market share has continued to spiral in 2005, and Mr Gorman has blamed a production shortage for Falcon ute’s poor showing of just 1113 sales in January – well short of Commodore ute’s 1613 sales the same month.

Commodore ute already holds a commanding 26.5 per cent year-to-date share (up from 26.5 per cent last January), while Falcon ute’s share is down from 26.1 per cent at this time in 2004 to just 20.4 per cent.

Mr Gorman said Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly plant in Victoria ran at between 102 and 104 per cent of capacity in 2004, delivering Territory, Fairlane/LTD and Falcon sedan, wagon and ute models at the rate of 520 vehicles per day or 75 per hour.

Producing more Falcon utes, he said, would have come at the expense of other models.

"I can do anything I want, but it doesn’t come for free. There are trade-offs," he said.

"Philosophically, we’re not going to chase things just to chase them. We’re going to try and maximize our ability to be very profitable and to run the business successfully.

"We saw this chart long before December. We knew what was going on (with ute) and we took the decision – we’re selling a good mix of short-wheelbase, long-wheelbase, ute, wagon and Territory.

"We’ve got five fundamentally quite different vehicles coming out of Broadmeadows and you have to mix and match those in ways that are good for the customer and good for the company.

"And think we were successful, but we did lose leadership in utes." Mr Gorman said working Saturdays was the key to increasing Ford Australia’s record level of plant efficiency, but that bottlenecks in the engine shop, paint shop and stamping plant would limit any production increases.

However, he conceded that Falcon ute sales had failed to increase as quickly Commodore ute sales.

"Last year was a record Courier year and second best ever for ute. We haven’t kept up with the pace of growth but we’ve chosen to do other things and we’ve expanded substantially our presence in other segments.

"As good as we feel about SUV sales, we feel just as bad about ute sales. The challenge for us really is in utes, to refocus our energies on lost ground there," he said.

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