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Ford boss backs Fiesta for Oz

Naming rights: Geoff Polites has confirmed Fiesta is his pick for the budget new car market.

Europe's ability to supply is the big question mark over new budget car

3 Jul 2001

FORD Australia President GeoffPolites has confirmed the new generationFiesta is the car he wants to fill thecompany's light car chasm.

"My view is that we would like toget Fiesta," Mr Polites said.

"But we just have to get the corporation'sviews.

"I think Fiesta is a great product -the stuff I've seen looks pretty good.

We (Ford Australia) haven't had thefinal discussions yet but there is a viewaround that it is a great product." This is the first time Mr Polites hasnamed the Europe-developed "B-car",which debuts in five-door form at theFrankfurt show in September, as FordAustralia's primary target to replace theFestiva, the rebadged Kia which wentoff sale this year.

The loss of Festiva is estimated to becosting Ford Australia as many as15,000 sales annually in the bargain-basementcategory, the three-door manual only Ka aver-agingabout 160 sales a month.

Mr Polites is excited about the variety of vehiclesplanned off the Fiesta platform, which is expected toinclude a three-door hatch, five-door hatch, performancevariants and even a 4WD lookalike which isactually a front-wheel drive.

Engine options will include 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6-litrepetrol, as well as a 1.4-litre diesel developed withPeugeot.

"I'd like to do Fiesta, you could have some prettyinteresting little toys in there," Mr Polites said.

"I would like to have truly good products. My view isif you can come in there with really great productswhich are aspirational and deliver for the customer, thenthat's what you should do.

"Ford of Europe really have their act together interms of product. They do some really good things andthey do understand performance - and to be able tolunch off some of that stuff would be good." But Mr Polites stressed there were many hurdles stillto overcome if the Fiesta was to meet a late 2002 on-saletarget.

"We have to get a program, we have to get it meetingAustralian Design Rules, we have to make sure it makessense financially," Mr Polites said.

"They've got to have capacity, they can probably sellthem all in Europe and they won't want to give it to us."Mr Polites said there was no prospect, at least initially,of the car being built outside Europe.

He said that the issues of costs was not the stickingpoint it once had been, as Ford of Europe emerges backinto profitability.

"They are getting their costs under control, so thingsthat didn't make sense financially two years ago maywell make sense now. They are the discussions we aregoing through."He forecast the big issue would be supply.

"They are very confident that car is going to be ahuge success and then Australia comes along and says'we want 500 a month' - and they're going to say 'getin line'," Mr Polites said.

FEAR ON RAPTOR

FORD'S vital Raptor 4WDprogram will go to the US forbudget approval later this year,and Mr Polites is nervous aboutthe reply he might get fromheadquarters.

"Hopefully it will get approved,but at this stage my concern iswe're putting it into anenvironment a bit different tolast year - in terms of gettingapproval," he said.

"The US economy is tougher,the Firestone issue is going totake $4 billion of cash, profitsare going to be lower, so theenvironment you're going intoasking for money is a lottougher than it would have beenlast year or the year before."Mr Polites said the cost of theprogram (about $200 million),although small in global terms,would not help Raptor's cause.

Mr Polites also:* Rejected a report on theFord-watcher Blue Oval Newsweb site that the Barra (AV)Falcon program was exceedingbudgets and could cause someanxiety in the US: "We've spentmore on engineering than weplanned, but that report's justnot true," he said.

* Rejected talk of plans toimport the Focus in the shortterm. He said Ford Australiawould reconsider the "C-Car"situation when the nextgeneration Focus and Laserwere merged onto the sameplatform.

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