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Ford says no to XR8 Ute

European flavour: Ford will look at importing the Mondeo Vignale to Australia as it expands its local model portfolio, but it is yet to be locked in.

XR8 Ute off the cards but door left open for more global Ford products

26 Nov 2014

FORD Australia has ruled out a super-hot HSV Maloo-rivalling XR8 ute, saying it would cost the company too much to develop, but said it will consider various models from its global catalogue.

The Blue Oval resurrected the XR8 nameplate for its final FG X Falcon sedan range – in local dealerships next week – but the most potent variant in the Ute range is the 270kW/533Nm XR6 Turbo from $39,190, plus on-road costs.

Holden offers a ute version of the V8 Commodore SS-V Redline from $48,990, while its performance arm HSV recently revealed its wild and strictly limited 430kW/740Nm GTS Maloo with a hefty $87,990 price-tag, to farewell the Commodore Ute.

Ford Australia marketing manager David Katic told GoAuto at the FG X Falcon launch that while some Ford fanatics have put their hands up for a swansong XR8 ute, it was an unlikely prospect.

“No, we wont be doing at XR8 Ute,” he said. “There is some demand for it. When you put a powertrain in a car, it is kind of like an all new car and requires full testing.

Mr Katic added that the difficulty in engineering a hardcore V8 powered ute does not make sense and that Ford would not want to compromise or shortcut in any way.

“Firstly can you get enough volume to pay for that. Also could an XR8 Ute deliver the true essence of an XR8? The sedan has got independent suspension and all that stuff but a ute by nature is not that because it also has to be a workhorse.

“So we just said, on balance can we deliver an XR8? Probably not. But you combine that with volume then you sort of go, 'hmmm can’t make that work'. I wish it was as simple as throwing in the engine.”

While the XR8 appears off the cards, Ford is ramping up its product offering in Australia as it transitions from a local manufacturer to a full-line importer when it closes its Geelong and Broadmeadows plants in 2016.

With the Australian-engineered Ranger ute-based Everest SUV, new Mondeo and iconic Mustang already confirmed for launch next year, the door is open for Ford to further bolster its line-up with offerings from its global product portfolio.

When asked if Ford would consider more premium models such as the Mondeo Vignale that was revealed at last year's Frankfurt motor show, Mr Katic said the company would consider anything made available and that they would look at it for Australia.

“Without going into the specifics of the product range, the wonderful thing about One Ford (global model strategy) is that the world is your oyster. You have got lots of products to choose from. But my personal belief is you want to expand your product range but do it where customers really value and build for the long term.

“So we will look for opportunities, but we don’t want it to be one-a-month opportunity we want it to be something that can build. We have got to make sure we are choosing the right products that are sensible that expand the range but not so much so that you can't manage it.

“So we will look at that. We look at everything. It's incumbent on us to look at absolutely everything.”

One segment the Blue Oval is reluctant to re-enter in Australia is the sub-B segment micro car arena that includes players such as the Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Alto (soon to be replaced by the Celerio) and Holden Barina Spark.

Mr Katic explained that there is insufficient interest in a sub-Fiesta model – such as the Brazilian-developed Ka that was revealed late last year – to warrant bringing it out here.

“I am not sure about the strength of the consumer demand in that segment. In fact the B-segment in Australia has reduced this year. I am not convinced Australians are going to keep migrating low low low. It feels like at the moment a B car (light) is the size they are comfortable with and that is actually shrinking in size (sales).

“Never say never but we are not seeing anyone say, 'can we have a sub sub sub car?' We are not seeing that sort of demand.”

Ford sold the first generation Ka in Australia briefly between 1999 and 2003 but dropped it due to slow sales.

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