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Ford not chasing top spot for Ranger

Miner improvement: The Ranger 4x4 XL Plus that arrives in showrooms this month is aimed squarely at the mining sector.

Improved stock availability and fleet interest boosting Ford's booming Ranger

16 May 2014

FORD Australia says it is not yet chasing the number-one spot on the light-commercial vehicle sales chart with the Melbourne-developed Ranger, despite taking over this year as the clear segment runner-up to Toyota’s all-conquering HiLux.

As previously reported, the Ranger is now the second-best-selling utility in Australia behind the HiLux, with a total of 7912 4x2 and 4x4 variants sold between January and the end of April this year compared to 11,571 examples of the Toyota over the same period.

The Ranger's 20.6 per cent boost in sales over the 2013 year-to-date results has narrowed the gap between Toyota's reigning sales king which sold 12,125 units in the same period last year while the Ranger had sold 6557.

Ford’s sales figure also means the Ranger sits above rivals such as the Holden Colorado, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton and Mazda BT-50 on the sales charts.

Speaking with GoAuto this week, Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald said the Blue Oval was not focussed on securing the top spot on the sales chart for the Ranger, but said the workhorse would keep ticking over at a strong rate.

“We wouldn’t be as bold to view that sort of eventuality,” he said. “What we do know is we are going to really aggressively push that car this year and going forward. We are confident our sales will continue an upward momentum.”

Mr McDonald said that Ford would prefer to focus on sustainable growth and adequate supply.

“I don’t think Ford sets out to have that as a single projection because there are so many factors that go into positioning a vehicle and selling a vehicle.

What we do know with this car is that it has hit its target market and it has hit a sweet spot with the market.

“Now because we have got volumes fully on stream, it is starting to get some good currency with owners.”

Ford says it has ample Ranger stock this year after a a slow recovery from the 2011 Thai floods that devastated the company's Rayong plant where the Australian-developed ute is sourced from, pushing stock availability back by months and impacting heavily on local sales.

Mr McDonald said that the availability of stock has improved Ranger's fortunes in the past 12 months, helping it push past sales of the aging Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara utilities in year-to-date sales this year.

“Stock availability is one factor because we were constrained specifically with XLT and Wildtrak models and when we introduced Ranger there was a very good swing to the higher-end series cars so we had a lot of people waiting for those cars. And they were very patient customers. Now that the tap is turned on and availability will be the big story this year for customers.”

Ford Australia product marketer Michael Risby said there has been increased interest in the Ranger from fleet buyers as a result of the five-star ANCAP crash safety rating across the range.

“I think the fact that we have got five-star across the range, and even the models that were selling to fleets before, a lot of fleets are mandating five-star safety and some of our competitors didn’t have that so we have been seeing good sales to those as a percentage mix of the whole lot,” he said.

Earlier this month, Ford's entry-level Ranger 4x2 variants were awarded the maximum five-star rating after the company fitted head-protecting curtain airbags, ensuring the entire range now carries the top score from ANCAP.

All other variants besides the single-cab cab-chassis achieved a maximum five-star rating at launch in late 2011.

Ford is openly courting the mining sector with the launch of the 4x4 XL Plus variant last month that includes canvas seat covers, a second battery, all-terrain tyres, an expanded wiring harness and an optional steel bull-bar, making it ideal for heavy-duty mine work.

Mr McDonald said Ford has had a positive response to the XL Plus from the mining industry and that the company was not concerned about the slow-down in the mining sector.

“If you look at the support vehicles in the mining industry, you still have to turn your fleet over. The vehicles work very hard in those sectors so you can’t stop buying the vehicles because the sector generally is down.

“There are still exploration companies out there doing a lot of work. The companies that are in Western Australia and the Northern Territory are still doing a lot of work. It probably comes down to the cycle of their fleets. We are offering a package here that when they come to us, the fleet buyer can say 'well Ford now have a vehicle in that area'.”

A facelift for the Ranger is imminent, with GoAuto spy photographers snapping a camouflaged Ranger undergoing testing at Ford's You Yangs proving ground near Geelong, west of Melbourne last month.

Little is known about the mid-life update but expect revised front-end styling that could take cues from the forthcoming Ranger-based Everest SUV, as well as some mechanical tweaks when it eventually surfaces within the next 12 months.

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