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Ford thinks small for bigger sales

Phoenix rising: Ford's European-bred Fiesta it helping Ford to regain lost ground, from the bottom up.

Fiesta helping to revive Ford’s small-car fortunes

10 Nov 2009

HAS Ford Australia recaptured its small-car sales zing?The company that was once the king of the small-car market with its Sydney-made, Mazda 323-based Laser hatch and Meteor sedan, seemed to lose the knack for small-car success at some point, and despite being blessed with some of the best compact car talent from Europe for the past five years, it has failed to make headway in the showroom.

Mazda has sold shiploads of Mazda2s and Mazda3s, but Ford has somehow managed not sell many Fiestas and Focuses, which are the pretty much the same cars under the sheet-metal.

There is some hope at the end of the Ford Australia small car tunnel, and, no, it’s not a steam train coming the other way.

It’s called the Fiesta and is selling better than it ever has. Admittedly, it is coming off a low base, but hey, it’s something.

The previous generation Fiesta came to Australia in April 2004, on the order of the late Geoff Polites, just before he left to take up the reins of Jaguar in Europe.

He viewed the Fiesta and the Focus as key vehicles in the plan to develop Ford’s image as a brand for those who enjoy good driving dynamics.

While the vehicles were rated strongly by motoring journalists, customers did not respond with the same enthusiasm.

In the case of the Fiesta, it did not help that most of Ford Australia’s marketing might was put behind a vehicle called the Territory that was about to be released.

From January 2005 to the end of October that year, Ford sold just 4127 Fiestas, a class-leading vehicle with a fresh design.

Its Mazda twin, the Mazda2, wasn’t setting the world on fire with 4537 sales during the same period.

Holden was still importing its Barina from Europe and managed to sell 7798 in those 10 months.

The Fiesta improved in 2006, with 5099 sold from January to the end of October, but dropped back to 4892 during the same 10 months of 2007.

It recorded its best sales of 5587 from January to October last year, but a more significant boost was on the way with the launch of a new model in January.

Ford Australia’s new president, Marin Burela, was in charge of the development of the vehicle in his previous role as executive director of small cars.

It is his baby and he knows how good it is.

So far this year, Ford Australia has sold 7218 Fiestas, an improvement of 1631 over last the same 10 months last year.

This comes before the exciting new Econetic Fiesta version arrives in showrooms after using the least fuel of all production vehicles in last month’s Global Green Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide.

It’s not expected to have a huge impact on sales, but the buzz should help the whole range.

Striking styling and the quality of the product is no doubt helping, but there is little doubt Ford’s media campaign for the Fiesta is working.

Even better news for Ford is that the company will soon source the Fiesta from Thailand instead of Germany and benefit from the free-trade agreement and lower build price that entails.

The Euro Fiesta is now closing in on the Barina, a far cheaper car that sourced from Daweoo in South Korea from 2005, which sold 8514 from January to the end of October this year.

One sobering fact is the sales number of the Mazda2, which stands at an impressive 10,982 for the same period despite a 22.4 per cent drop this year.

Another is that the Focus is dramatically under-performing, but that’s a story for another day.

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