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Territory export plan too costly: Ford

Small ambitions: A stillborn plan to produce the Focus (pictured) in Australia scuppered Ford's plans to engineer a left-hand drive Falcon for export markets.

Ford Australia says it can’t afford an export version of its Territory large SUV

Ford logo19 Apr 2013

AN EXPORT version of Ford’s Territory would need a significant investment even before a customer is found, the car-maker has warned.

Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott last night repeated a call for the Australian car-maker to develop a left-hand-drive model of its large soft-roader to turn it into a “world car” and help the company earn valuable export dollars.

Earlier in the week, he said the lack of an export program for the car “breaks my heart”.

However, Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Sinead Phipps said the government would need to dig back into the public purse to help it get a Territory export program off the ground.

“It would require significant investment, obviously,” Ms Phipps told GoAuto. “But even more than the investment there needs to be a customer for it, a market it can be exported to to allow for it to be priced at the right position as well.

“It would be a significant program to do something like that and at this stage there is no plan because we don’t have any of those three components lined up.” Ford’s Territory was not part of the car-maker’s plans to develop a left-hand-drive version of the Falcon, announced about the same time as the Australian car-maker revealed in 2006 it would develop the light commercial vehicle that eventually evolved into the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50.

However, the Falcon export program fell over in 2007 after Ford announced it would build the Focus small car in Australia and funding for the large family sedan’s left-hand-drive conversion was diverted to the small car program.

Mrs Phipps said a decision to decline an offer of “co-investment opportunities to create left-hand-drive cars for export” from the then Rudd government was “complicated”.

“At that point (in about 2006) we had talked about the potential for doing a left-hand-drive version of Falcon – not Territory.

“Then in 2008 when we announced the Focus was coming here, we diverted the finding from a left-hand-drive Falcon to the Focus program.

“Obviously the Focus program didn’t end up going ahead, but it was more a redirection of funds rather than a rejection.” Ms Phipps said Mr Abbott’s call to export the Territory showed that there was support for the Australian car industry.

“But as I said, there would be a lot of components that need to line up, and there are no plans for us to do it at this stage.” Ford does have a small export program for its Territory, under which it is sold in several right-hand-drive countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Its latest deal was a group of 100 high-specification, diesel-engined Territory Titaniums shipped to Thailand, where local pricing pushed the price tag of the almost $60,000 vehicle up to just under the equivalent of $100,000 once it reached Thai showrooms.

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