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Ford to focus on SUVs, pick-ups, sportscars
Asia Pacific chief says Ford Aus to home in on successful models
17 Jan 2018
By TIM NICHOLSON in Detroit
FORD Australia will sharpen its focus on SUVs, pick-ups and performance cars in the face of falling passenger car sales, according to the executive who oversees the Australian market.
The Blue Oval’s two top-selling models in 2017 were the Ranger pick-up – also the second best-selling vehicle in Australia with 42,728 sales – followed by the Mustang sportscar that recorded 9165 sales.
Its three passenger cars – Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo – all lost ground.
Ford Motor Company group vice-president and president of Ford Asia Pacific Peter Fleet said the company would place greater emphasis on the models that have been successful.
“We will continue to explore the other opportunities we can in Australia but I think it is clear that our business in Australia now is going to be anchored around the (pick-up) trucks, utilities and performance vehicles,” he said at the Detroit motor show.
“And you can see that already in existence by what we are being successful with in Australia. I think (Ford Australia president and CEO) Graeme Whickman and his team are doing a super job in Australia.”
When asked if he expected a paring back of Ford’s Australian passenger car line-up, Mr Fleet acknowledged that it was already pared back but did not say if more models would be discontinued.
“I am not announcing anything different about that, but if you look at the volumes of those we sell relative to the rest of the business – and I am comparing the business to where it was with Falcon – where I see the most exciting future for the Ford brand in Australia, both as a business and for our customers, is around trucks, utilities and performance vehicles,” he said.
“That is where I see the most opportunity.”
The Australian future of the Fiesta is uncertain, with Ford yet to confirm a new-generation Down Under.
The new model, revealed in late 2016, will not be built in Thailand where the current model is made for Australia, meaning if it was imported from Europe it could be too expensive.
A likely scenario is that the Fiesta will eventually be discontinued in its current guise, but the new version of the spicy ST hot hatch would be offered here.
The ageing Fiesta continued to slide last year, with sales dropping 43 per cent to 1550 units, pushing it into the bottom five in its segment.
Its Focus stablemate also dipped 12.2 per cent to 5953 sales last year, well off the pace of the segment leading Toyota Corolla (37,353) and beaten by the likes of the 10-year-old Mitsubishi Lancer (7560).
The Mondeo mid-sizer retained its place in the top three best sellers in the segment, but sales dropped by 5.2 per cent last year to 2959 units.
Ranger was ahead by 15.7 per cent in 2017, while Mustang was up by 47.6 per cent. SUVs including the Escape and Everest grew their sales by 19.4 and 27.5 per cent last year.
Ford’s haul of 42,728 Rangers last year meant the pick-up made up 55 per cent of Ford’s overall sales.
Mr Fleet said the Ranger had been successful in “anchoring the transformation of the business in Australia” after local manufacturing closed in 2016, but added that he was not concerned about the high proportion of sales of the workhorse compared with other Ford models.
“Do we want everything to be about Ranger 4x4 in Australia? No.”
he said. “There are things we are doing now to try and grow other elements in the portfolio.
Escape is one – we are putting a lot of effort in there. We will be introducing Endura.
“In an ideal world you want to have a balanced portfolio. That said, our most successful businesses around the world often are anchored on a champion vehicle.”
Mr Fleet detailed markets such as Thailand that is also heavily reliant on the Ranger, as well as the UK that sells the Transit van in great numbers.
“You gave got to watch that when your business is anchored on one really strong vehicle, but it is a great foundation to have because then you can build other things on around it,” he said.
“Look at great success we have had with Mustang in Australia. That has been a super response to that vehicle. The dealers love selling the Mustang.”
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