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Ford Performance officially launches in Oz

Crowning glory: Ford’s Mustang is expected to this year retain its position as the top-selling sportscar in Australia with the launch of an updated and facelifted version mid-year.

No dedicated showroom space for Ford Performance as sub-brand gets green light

Ford logo17 Apr 2018

FORD Australia has formally launched its Ford Performance sub-brand with the announcement of its return to the Supercars racing series in 2019 and the launch of the Fiesta ST in next-generation guise, but the company says it will not commit dedicated showroom space to its go-fast models.

Instead, Ford Australia will democratise availability of its Performance range – including the Mustang coupe and convertible set for a facelift mid-year, the flagship Ranger Raptor, Focus ST and RS small hatchbacks and Fiesta ST light car – across its dealer network.

Speaking to GoAuto at the Supercars announcement in Melbourne, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman confirmed that only employee and technician training would be needed for a dealership to sell Ford Performance vehicles.

“Nothing as grandiose as that (dedicated showroom space), all dealers in both countries (Australia and New Zealand) will be able to sell (Ford Performance) vehicles,” he said.

“Naturally, we look to train our dealers to a very high level … some of the technology in those vehicles is pretty complex, pretty exciting because it delivers some pretty cool benefits to the customer, so we’ll have some pretty comprehensive training behind it.

“But we think that Ford Performance vehicles should be for everybody and therefore all dealers should be able to sell them to everyone.”

The flagship of the Ford Performance line-up will be the Ranger Raptor pick-up that goes on sale in September priced at $74,990 plus on-road costs, and it has already racked up “over 500” pre-orders, according to Ford Australia marketing director Danni Winter.

Ms Winter confirmed to GoAuto that the Raptor will not have any production constraints, but warned that – like its popular Wildtrak sibling that faced stock shortages as demand outstripped supply – waiting times could form in the lead up to launch.

“We don’t have any constraints as yet,” she said. “We’ll continue to seek out customer demand in the market and plan around that, but we do expect it to be highly sought after and that may result in a wait list in time, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

However, Ford’s most-popular Performance model is the two-door Mustang, which is Australia’s favourite sportscar and the Blue Oval’s second-best-selling vehicle behind the Ranger pick-up.

Last year, Ford Australia sold 9165 examples of the Mustang, a 47.6 per cent year-on-year increase over 2016. It has so far bucked the sportscar sales trend of spiking early before petering off a couple of years into its model lifecycle.

With a facelift on the horizon and a return to the Supercar racing series now confirmed, GoAuto asked Mr Whickman if the Mustang’s sales success was sustainable, to which he answered a definitive “yes”.

“I think that it taps into a vein that people have great demand for, I think it’s got a bit of a cultural icon status that I think is well deserved, but I think we’re still going to have to earn that (success) going forward,” he said.

“I think it is sustainable, absolutely. If you look at Australians, you’ll see that they over-index in all elements of automotive – so AMG, well over-indexed, premium brands in the market at 12 per cent when most markets are eight or nine.

“Australians have a thirst for … the upper end of the spectrum, and I think we’ve got a Ford Performance series of vehicles that can answer that very, very capably.”

For the first three month of this year however, while Mustang has retained its number-one spot across all sportscar categories, sales have dipped 8.1 per cent to 1637 units.

Mr Whickman would not be drawn on whether lining up the sixth-generation Mustang on the Supercars starting grid would translate into increased sales success, but said motorsport and Ford Performance were a natural fit.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done with the Mustang, we sold over 9000 last year and we’re the biggest right-hand-drive market in the world,” he said.

“I think it brings another dimension to the Mustang. It also comes at a time when we are launching the ’18 model year … so that’s an opportunity to talk about that, but I think it talks to the Ford Performance credentials more than anything.

“Ford Performance activity, whether it be an ST Focus, an ST Fiesta, an RS, the Ranger Raptor … it sort of broadens that credential around racing motorsport and performance.”

While Ford’s Mustang has had the pony car niche to itself since launching in sixth-generation guise in early 2016, this year will see Holden enter the game with the launch of the Chevrolet Camaro that will be imported and converted to right-hand drive by Holden Special Vehicles (HSV).

Mr Whickman said he believes the facelifted Mustang still has what it takes to retain its top spot as the best-selling sportscar in Australia.

“You would be silly not to look at your competitors because I think that’s an act of an arrogant brand or leader, but we also have confidence in the Mustang,” he said.

“We’re about to launch the new Mustang (with a) 10-speed (automatic transmission), active exhaust, a number of driver-assist technologies, the vehicle’s next iteration has still got that design, that silhouette, it’s still iconic – we’ll front up and hopefully earn the right to sell more Mustangs regardless of competitor.”

Ford last month confirmed the arrival of the special-edition Mustang Bullitt that pays homage to the Steve McQueen movie of the same name, but when asked whether this would herald more limited-run sportscars from Ford such as the GT500 or GT350R, Ms Winter simply replied: “I hope so.”

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