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LPG Falcon sales get shot in the arm
Ford cashes in as rising fuel prices and Howard’s LPG subsidy drive Falcon sales
27 Sep 2006
FORD Australia appears to have been the car-maker to capitalise most from the government’s LPG subsidy, with almost one quarter of all Falcons sold in August powered by liquid petroleum gas.
The company claims that of the 3700 Falcons sold last month some 826 were LPG versions, including 588 utes.
About 21 per cent of all Falcons sold are now LPG-powered – up from six per cent in 2004 and 11 per cent in 2005.
In 1999 Ford became the first local manufacturer to offer a dedicated-LPG system in its locally built vehicles, and recently expanded its LPG range to nine models (including ute, wagon and sedan variants, each with a three-year/100,000km warranty), which remain Australia’s only homegrown models to offer a dedicated LPG system.
According to Ford, at current fuel prices, motorists can expect to save about $40 per tank with an LPG vehicle versus an equivalent petrol model.
Of course, Ford has welcomed the Federal Government’s contribution of $1000 towards the purchase cost of a new factory-fitted LPG-powered vehicle for private use, which was co-incidentally announced mid-way through Ford’s 23-day/13,500km round-Australia LPG Challenge, and is available alongside a similar subsidy for aftermarket LPG conversions.
Similarly, demand for LPG conversions more than doubled last month, when more than 8000 installations were completed nationally – up from around 4000 in July.
The latest figures were revealed last week by Ford Australia vice-president of marketing and sales Mark Winslow, who said Ford was working closely with long-time LPG tank supplier APA to ramp-up its LPG vehicle production capacity from 85-90 vehicles per day to 110-120 per day within months.
"We’ve really seen demand for LPG increase in the last 30 to 60 days or so," he said. "People don’t know where the bottom (of petrol price hikes) is and LPG is a proven technology with some price certainty."
Mr Winslow (left) said that of 420 Falcon SR variants sold last month, more than half were LPG-powered, indicating that "private buyers are really starting to come into the (LPG) market".
However, despite a big 321.4 per cent rise in the number of new LPG passenger car sales to private buyers so far this year (and a 336.4 per cent rise last month), this represents a year-to-date total of just 472 vehicles – a little over half the number of hybrids (848) and well short of the 6533 diesels sold to individuals in 2006.
In contrast, 682 LPG vehicles were sold to non-private buyers in August alone, with a total of 5149 LPG-powered vehicles bought by businesses so far in 2006.
LPG is still the dominant (non-petrol) fuel for new cars sold to business customers, while hybrids now attract almost a third of the number of non-private diesel passenger car sales.
Mr Winslow said that despite the declining medium SUV segment, Ford sold about 200 Territory Turbos in August, predominantly top-spec Ghia variants.
He said that while Falcon ute reduced its market share last month, it was still the dominant player in the 4x2 utility segment (which is also down year-on-year) in part because "we think we are picking up more sales from the demise of the cab-chassis Commodore ute".
But Mr Winslow warned: "Is this the start of tradies being affected by interest rates and fuel prices?"
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