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Dynamic duo: Focus XR5 arrives in April, a month after Fiesta Zetec (below).

Ford turns to its bite-sized cars to achieve a meatier market share Down Under

Ford logo27 Mar 2006

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FORD Australia has turned to its Fiesta light car and Focus small car to improve its market share this year as its homegrown Falcon large car and Territory 4WD come under increasing sales pressure.

Noting the rise year-to-date of light-car and small-car sales in Australia, and the decline of large cars and medium 4WDs, Ford Australia president Tom Gorman said the company would rely more heavily on its smaller vehicles in order to achieve a 13.8 per cent share.

This would represent 0.7 per cent above of its 2005 result, or 1.7 per cent ahead of its position YTD.

"The real story for growth has been in the light car segment," said Mr Gorman at the launch of the company’s facelifted Fiesta.

Ford expects to achieve around 600 Fiesta sales a month. To realise this goal, the company has realigned pricing, is promoting the Fiesta’s built-in-Germany uniqueness (not even VW’s Spanish-built Polo can claim this) and has fortified its Zetec sports model.

Last year the outgoing WP Fiesta recorded a monthly average of 433 – up from the 400 that Ford had forecast back at its April 2004 launch – while in February the company recorded its second-best result with 519 units (up from 395 in 2005).

27 center imageMr Gorman said consumers would continue to connect with the Fiesta’s high-quality message. He was also adamant that Ford would not discount the Fiesta from its current premium European positioning, stating that going down "the South Korean route is not the answer".

However, as the company works to streamline costs at a production as well as other back-of-house levels, this could shift.

"As we get more efficient and take some cost out, that may give us some more room to be more aggressive (with marketing the Fiesta)," he said.

Similarly, in the small-car segment, the Focus is under pressure to outstrip previous performances. Mr Gorman said he expected the Focus to settle on around 2000 sales a month.

Last month, 987 Focus models found buyers for a 6.1 per cent small-car share – up from 892 and 5.4 per cent for the same time in 2005 – a year in which the average monthly sales for the Focus fell from 2004’s 1047 to 894 units.

This was despite the introduction of the new LS series, which not only addressed virtually every perceived flaw in the previous LR model but also garnered widespread critical acclaim.

Ford Australia blames low supply from the South African source, coupled with unexpectedly high demand for the limited numbers of upper specification LX and Zetec models.

Conversely, it expects to increase sales this year via freer supply and, presumably, a more suitable model mix (less base CL, more LX/Zetec) which better suits Australian small-car buyers’ richer tastes.

"Once we get more supply it will drive a lot of volume there," said Mr Gorman.

The introduction next month of a new hero model – the XR5 Turbo – should also bless Ford’s baby with a halo effect. Already in Europe some critics are proclaiming it as superior to the iconic (and wildly successful in Australia) VW Golf GTI.

Later this year Ford is expected to unveil the Focus CC coupe-convertible that will rival the Peugeot 307 and Renault Megane CC.

On the diesel front, Ford refuses to comment on a Focus oil-burner, although GoAuto understands that a TDCI hatchback is under evaluation.

Also on the four-cylinder front is the arrival of the facelifted Escape with an improved 2.3-litre engine.

At the end of the year Ford will also pitch its all-new Courier, featuring 2.5-litre and 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engines in a larger, roomier and more refined package.

What's coming from Ford:

Fiesta update - March
Focus XR5 - April
Focus CC - October
Escape update - October
All-new Courier - November

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