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Out of Focus

Focal length: The wait for Ford's shapely Focus may lengthen.

A cloud has been cast over the arrival of Ford's premium hatch, the Focus

10 Jul 2000

FORD Australia may delay the arrival of the premium small hatch Focus due to poor sales of the Ka and Mondeo. President Geoff Polites said Ford was considering its options on Focus. A decision could be delayed until Ford is due to actually order the cars, in about three months. Mr Polites suggested Ford's marketing approach with the new Ka and revised Mondeo had failed (sales are down year-to-date despite a relaunch) and Laser marketing would be reviewed. Last month Ford sold only 39 Kas for a total of 460 for the year, according to VFACTS. Dealers have cut languishing 1999 plated Ka stocks back to $14,990 driveaway, which Mr Polites described as "selling for practice" rather than profit. He said the $14,990 campaign had resulted in orders tripling in the past week. In a bid to boost Laser sales, Ford is likely to offer a range of special edition models. A 2.0-litre engine version may come later, especially if the 2.0-litre Focus does not eventuate. Ford globally claims the Focus is the best selling car in the world, topping the charts in Europe and selling well in the US. Mr Polites does not want to risk the car bombing out in Australia. He said the declining small car market coupled with a hostile exchange rate environment and poor marketing of European-sourced product by Ford previously could conspire to delay the Focus. On a marginally brighter note, Ford sold 5261 Falcons in June and Holden 6515 Commodores. The actual sales gap may have narrowed since Holden is likely to have slipped some of its 3000 cars destined for International Olympic Committee use into the market in June. The VT II Commodore will be run out in July and August ahead of a new VX model due in September. Ford is believed to be working on a concept car for November's Sydney motor show aimed at testing public reaction to a Falcon-based 4WD lifestyle wagon. Ford is close to confirming a business case for the project, dubbed Raptor. Mr Polites said he wants a four-wheel drive ute and other body styles off the same platform but the projects would require a sound business case before they could proceed. Ford is known to have engineered a four-wheel drive Ute but development slowed while AUII was devised. Meanwhile, a report in Britain's Autocar magazine suggests that the independent UK importer of FTE Falcons is to add up to 250 Tickford converted Mustangs to its line-up. This could double Mustang production at Tickford Vehicle Engineering, helping to write off the substantial engineering investment made by David Flint's team. FTE is believed to be aiming at 20 Mustang sales a month from late this year when the $80,000 V8- powered coupes go on sale. The right-hand drive conversion process is extremely convoluted, requiring a significant strip and rebuild operation and cut and shut welding of the underbody.

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