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Ford to build world-beating Performance brand
Closure of FPV will not affect the strength of Performance brand in Australia: Ford
12 Oct 2015
By TUNG NGUYEN
FORD Australia is confident that its newly conceived Ford Performance banner will resonate strongly Down Under, despite an initial range that will be limited to just one model.
While Ford is not touting the Performance brand as a direct replacement for the departing home-grown Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV), the Australian car-maker says the new Ford Performance identity will have a stronger global presence and will be well received by Australians.
The new Ford Performance division will sit alongside its other recent global initiative – One Ford, which will increase the number of globally-sourced vehicles coming to the Australian range after the company becomes a full line importer in 2016.
The closure of FPV, which worked exclusively on Australian-built Falcon and Territory models, was not an easy decision according to Ford Performance global vehicle chief engineer Jamal Hameedi, but was a necessary casualty in “Ford becoming One Ford”.
“There was FPV, there was SVT, there was Team RS, and actually the only way we could do it, is we actually went and did a global study on what names and what brands would resonate with a global audience,” he said.
“This was an extremely emotional debate. You have these hallowed brands that have been making these fantastic products and there were a lot of different opinions on it.
“That was a way we got everyone to buy into it, because everyone’s hallowed brand was thrown into the hat…and Ford Performance was a winner.
“It’s so simple, everyone gets it. I don’t have to explain what Ford Performance is. One, it’s by Ford. Two, it’s about performance. Keep it simple.”
Vehicles developed under the Ford Performance umbrella include the flagship GT, left-hand-drive-only F150 Raptor, upcoming Focus RS and track-honed Shelby Mustang GT350 and GT350R, which have been benchmarked against the likes of Ferrari's 458 Speciale, the Mercedes-AMG A45 and BMW M4.
“With our latest generation of products, we’re really swinging for the fences,” Hameedi said. “Get everyone in the segment together, the best, and see what it would take to beat these guys.”
However, despite the production of the sixth-generation Mustang accommodating both left- and right-hand-drives, Australia will miss out on the Shelby GT350 and GT350R, leaving the Focus RS as the only Ford Performance tuned model to anchor the brand locally.
Although developed before the formation of Ford Performance, both the Focus and Fiesta ST models are considered part of the same family and Mr Hameedi promised Australia “will get other products” from the Ford Performance brand.
“The STs were already on the ground, so you’ll have three products,” he said.
“That is our first level brand. An entry into performance cars. If there was a future ST, it would be considered part of Ford Performance. ST is a core brand within the Ford Performance envelope.”
However, Mr Hameedi explained that it may be some time before Ford Performance will get its own dealership space similar to HSV for Holden and AMG for Mercedes-Benz.
“We can flash Ford Performance in your face, and the first question you are going to ask is ‘where are your products?” he said.
“Don’t push a brand, push a product that kills everything when it’s introduced, in a good way, and then the brand will come. I think you need to do the product first, and the product has to impress, and then the brand will come naturally, rather than vice versa.” “So the RS will be the beachhead, at least in Australia for that.”
In addition to the Focus RS, potential development of automatic variants within the ST range could further bolster Ford Performance’s presence in Australia's automatic-biased market.
“Especially with the ST line, we need to find an automatic solution,” Mr Hameedi said.
“I’m a manual guy, I’ll always be a manual guy, but we definitely want to find a solution, North America is very automatic centric and China is very automatic centric.”
Rumoured upcoming Ford Performance models include a Mondeo ST, which was spied testing earlier this year, a possible range-topping Fiesta RS and a Ford Performance-fettled SUV in the works for a global market.
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