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Ford fights back

Tail-chasing: Ford Australia are aiming to move market position from a distant third to regain leadership which it has not held since 1997.

Ford reveals it wants its Australian arm back on the road as Number One

Ford logo10 Mar 2005

THE Ford Motor Company has set its Australian operations the task of regaining market leadership in Australia and has set a deadline for this to be achieved.

As official sales statistics for the auto sector released on March 3 showed Holden deposing long-time market leader Toyota from the top of the dais last month, Ford Motor Co. vice president and chief operating officer for Ford Asia Pacific and Africa, Peter Daniel, revealed Ford Australian president Tom Gorman had been tasked with taking the Blue Oval brand from a distant third to first place.

“We have got a timeframe,” Mr Daniel said at the Melbourne International Motor show last week, adding that “Tom has that challenge” to take Ford Australia to number one, which is a position it has not held since 1997.

“We’ve got to take one step at a time. (But) we’ve got a new Focus coming – that should help us gain some market share – and our plan over time is: obviously we’ve got to continue to grow our share,” he said.

“We’ve got to grow it profitably – we’re not going to chase share and lose money on it – so it’s going to be profitable share supported by great product.

“Now, I expect to get closer and closer to number one.”

Ford Motor Company’s executive vice president and Asia Pacific and Africa president, Mark Shulz commented further that “we have high expectations of the team here”, although neither he nor Mr Daniel would be drawn on specific timing.

For his part, Mr Gorman insisted Ford Australia had a long way to go before reaching the goal but maintained the company was well placed in relation to its rival manufacturers.

“We’re very focussed on the local market and I believe that gives us a competitive advantage,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that by having increased market share in the last two years while some of our competitors are going in the opposite direction.

“Our share is up in the first two months (of 2005) and, again, some of our major competitors are going in the opposite direction.”

Notwithstanding its market leadership last month, Holden’s market share this year is down 0.5 per cent to 18.2 per cent over the same period in 2004 and Toyota, which still holds outright market leadership year-to-date, is down 1.7 per cent to 19.0 per cent.

Ford is up 0.2 per cent to 13.5 per cent YTD after breaking through the 20,000-unit mark for January/February for the first time in 15 years.

For the past three calendar years, Toyota and Ford have increased market share but Holden has lost share. (See table next page.)“We are a distant number three today and ... you’ve got to go through number two to get to number one,” Mr Gorman said. “We have to be competitive in each of those important segments – and (while) we are dominant in some segments, in others we’re fifth or sixth player.

“The only way we’re going to really improve is to chip away week in and week out in those important segments.”

These include the small car segment, in which the Ford Focus has trailed well behind the Holden Astra, Toyota Corolla and current market-leader, the Mazda3.

While Mr Gorman said it would be irresponsible to state that Ford could emulate the 3000-plus units Holden and Mazda each achieved last month, he said the all-new Focus on sale from June would “reinvigorate that brand” and increase sales level for the car around 10 per cent. That would take it to about 1200 units per month.

“It’s a very crowded marketplace and at the end of the day we need to be profitable as well in our business,” Mr Gorman said. “We’re not just going to chase volume just to rack up more share points if it doesn’t make sense for us.

“We’re moving in the right direction and we’re doing it in a well-managed, I think, logical manner where we’re not chasing after every single opportunity. We’re going after the opportunities that make the most sense for us and the most sense of our customers, and we’re going to stick to that strategy.”

 center image (Left: Peter Daniel, vice president and chief operating officer for Ford Asia Pacific and Africa).

Other underachievers in the range include the Fairlane/LTD long-wheelbase Falcon derivatives, however Mr Gorman said the BA Mark II series launched at the Melbourne motor show last week would revive interest in these cars.

“Our expectation here really isn’t enormous given the overall size of the marketplace but we think we can definitely lift (sales) performance,” he said. “We would want to see well above a 10 per cent improvement here.”

According to Toyota Australia executive chairman John Conomos, Toyota’s fall from the number-one position last month was a result of low stock levels, which would soon be rectified.

“The company is facing its lowest levels of stock, I think, in 10 years,” Mr Conomos said.

“We’re feeling the effects of a 3000 (unit) reduction in Corolla production, 2500 in our most popular pick-up truck, the HiLux, because it was the last month of its production (before an all-new model) – so this had a very significant effect in the first two months. But we’re confident we’ll pick it up.

“Holden is doing a very good job … but it’s very hard to fight back when your top-selling models are in fact being supplied at about 60 per cent of what you require. But that will be fixed with the new pick-up truck and pre-allocation again (from April) of Corolla.

“So we’re confident we’ll do better.”

Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney – who tellingly labelled 2004 the “Year for Small Cars” for Holden at the Melbourne show last week – admitted it would be difficult to maintain its position as market leader for the entire year.

“It’ll be tough,” he said. “One month doesn’t make a whole year – I mean, we’re proud to be number one but it’s only one month.”

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