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Bangkok show: Ford eyes Territory exports to Thailand

My Thai: Australia’s own Territory could soon be on car buyers’ shopping lists in Thailand.

Ford shows Territory SUV in Bangkok as it toys with plan to revive Thai exports

27 Mar 2012

FORD Australia’s home-grown Territory is being shown at the Bangkok motor show with a view to exporting the SUV to Thailand – source of a growing number of Ford vehicles sold in Australia.

Officially, the vehicle is on display to gauge public interest, but plans are afoot to introduce to the Falcon-based Territory into Thai Ford dealerships for sale as a premium SUV alongside the Thai-built Ranger that was also designed and engineered in Australia.

The export proposal was aired at the show where the Ford executive who oversaw the development of the original Territory in Australia, Trevor Worthington - who transferred to Bangkok in 2008 as Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa product planning director - helped to unveil the new locally made Ford Focus on the same stand.

A handful of Territorys were exported to Thailand when the Thai-Australia free-trade agreement was struck in 2005, but the program fell over when the Thai government introduced local regulations such as a 60 per cent registration excise on all foreign cars with petrol engines over 3.0 litres.

The arrival of the European-sourced 2.7-litre V6 diesel in the latest SZ Territory helps to reduce that impost to 50 per cent (for diesel engines over 2.0 litres), making exports more viable.

Ford Australia public affairs director Sinead Phipps told GoAuto that Ford’s team in Thailand said the Territory had already received positive feedback from the exercise, which would involve a single top-shelf Titanium model.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Territory Titanium. Below: Ford's Trevor Worthington.

She said the program would involve small numbers – about 100 a year – and that at this stage there were no plans to export to other Asian countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia.

“We are just going to see how it goes first in Thailand,” she told us.

“If it is a wild success, then we might have a look at other markets.” Ford has no plans to develop a left-hand-drive version of the Territory to expand beyond right-hand-drive South-East Asian markets.

Ford Australia is increasingly relying on Ford’s Thai factories for its cars, with the Fiesta and Ranger set to be joined later this year by the Focus sedan and hatchback from the Asian production hub.

The Ford proprosal to send Territory in the other direction would create small but handy additional volume of Territory for Ford Australia’s Campbellfield factory in Victoria.

The only other significant export market for the Territory is New Zealand, which takes about 1500 Territorys a year.

Last year, Territory was the biggest-selling medium SUV in Australia, achieving 13,866 sales, compared with the second-placed Toyota Kluger’s 11,692.

The facelifted SZ Territory – introducing diesel to the line-up for the first time – gave the only Australian-made SUV new sales impetus when it was launched last year.

This momentum has carried into 2012, with Territory sales up a whopping 52 per cent in the first two months of the year, compared with the same period last year.

If the Territory does go on sale in Thailand, it can be expected to line up with another Aussie-developed SUV now being developed by Ford Australia engineers in Victoria.

Thought to be called Everest, the ladder-chassis 4x4 vehicle – based on the same T6 platform as the Ranger that was launched in Australia last year – is expected to roll down the same Thai production line as the pick-up within the next year or two.

A trickle of Australian-made cars have made their way to Thailand over the years, with Holden cars even assembled there under a licence arrangement until the 1990s.

In 2003, with the start of the free-trade deal, Holden exported small numbers of Commodore to Thailand under Chevrolet Lumina badges.

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