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VE Commodore: Ford fights back!

Falcon fine-tuned: A significant upgrade of the current BF is in the wings for a late-year release.

Ford boss Tom Gorman says he is prepared for the VE Commodore onslaught

Ford logo21 Jul 2006

By NEIL MCDONALD

THE Commodore has not even hit dealerships but Ford has fired the first salvo over the VE's bows.

GoAuto understands that Ford is preparing to upgrade its volume-selling model to better combat the Commodore, with changes that may constitute a Series II update for BF Falcon in October.

Ford Australia chief, Tom Gorman, admitted that there was no question VE presented a big challenge but Ford was not about to let the Falcon slip out of buyer consciousness.

"There is no question it's (VE) going to be a challenge," he said.

"Any CEO that tells you that they like competition is lying. We wish that they'd go away, but they're not going to do that."Mr Gorman admitted that Ford had a few tricks up its sleeve with Falcon but would not be drawn on what they were.

However, GoAuto understands it may deliver possible across-the-board fuel consumption improvements with one possibility being the standard fitting of the ZF-supplied six-speed automatic transmission across the range.

This has delivered fuel economy gains of up to 11 per cent on some Falcon variants in the BF model.

Mr Gorman said Ford was ready to re-affirm Falcon's place in the large six-cylinder segment despite what he expects will be a huge advertising blitz on VE.

"The thing that they are going to do is spend a ton of money convincing people to get into it," he said.

"And that's really where the competitive forces lie.

"They've kept their marketing powder pretty dry for the first six or seven months of this year and now they're going to spend very aggressively because they need to make this thing successful."It was important for Ford "not try to be someone else be true to our product", he said.

"We think we have a great car, still," he said.

"Frankly, they're really catching up to what we did at BA... if you want to be honest... so we'll see what kind of effort they put into that.

"But we have a great product and we're going to continue market what makes our product strong in the market place.

"The fact that we're older than them makes the fight harder, no question about it."

27 center imageLeft: Ford Australia boss Tom Gorman with and Holden's VE Commodore Omega (below).Mr Gorman said Ford would react once it had a clear idea of Holden's VE strategy.

"The simple answer is I don't know where they're going to price it," he said.

"My guess is the car's getting heavier, fuel economy's going to deteriorate there's going to be more cost in the vehicle.

"That'll be my guess just from what I know about. Then we'll see how they price it and how they spec it.

"We've obviously know some of the things they're going to do with DSC (stability control) and so forth but how they take their full range and how they position each vehicle (is important)."Despite slowing Falcon sales, due largely to buyers substituting it with the Territory, Mr Gorman believes Ford is better placed, strategically than Holden.

"If you go back two years ago, domestically they outsold us by 10,000 pieces," he said.

"We've made up that difference in two years. We've made it up by extending what we build here to include a really competitive SUV (Territory).

"We outsell them, domestic for domestic.

"What we have to offer to the family are two things. You can come in and buy a fantastic sedan or we can put you into a versatile SUV. They don't have that alternative."Mr Gorman believes the arrival of the Captiva SUV will cannibalise some VE sales.

"We know that because Territory did that to us and we expected it by the way," he said.

Ford's next-generation Falcon, codenamed Irion, is a long way off, not due out until around March 2008.

But Mr Gorman said Ford would not adopt a price slashing strategy to keep Falcon sales buoyant.

"If you come in and hack the price out of your offering all you're doing is killing the residual value," he said.

"And when you have a lot of lease and fleet business, and some rental buybacks you're killing yourself if you do that.

"We have some ideas, as you would imagine. It's going to be a very challenging time."

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