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The Barrett era

New blood: Rod Barrett became the new FPV chief this month.

New FPV boss reveals his plans to rejuvenate Ford’s muscle-car division

15 Aug 2007

THE new head of Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) believes he will bring a new style of leadership to the brand, will double sales within two years and will bring a wider range of vehicles to the market – from four-cylinder models all the way up to a stonking new Falcon GTHO flagship.

In a wide-ranging interview with GoAuto on Monday, new FPV general manager Rod Barrett said that:

- Two new FPV models will be launched at the Australian International Motor Show in October (probably including a Territory)

- FPV’s new ‘Orion’-based range of models will be launched within a month of the mainstream Falcon

- The launch will not be adversely affected by an embarrassing leak of official photos

- Four-cylinder and five-cylinder FPV models are almost certain to be added in the future

- A hot ute is under consideration

- He is working to rebuild the damaged relationship with Ford Australia and put their differences in the past

- Prodrive is still calling the shots at FPV

- Toyota’s TRD Aurion will not affect either Ford or Holden Special Vehicles sales

- FPV sales should double within two years and he would like to ultimately beat HSV

- He wants to revive the GTHO nameplate with a worthy FPV performance leader.

FPV’s overdue new-model rollout begins on Friday with the first of three limited-edition models, an R-spec F6 Typhoon, but it will step up a couple of gears with the two new models in October and go into overdrive with the all-new ‘Orion’ range in the first quarter of next year.

Mr Barrett would not reveal details of the two new models to be unveiled at the Sydney show but left us in little doubt about what they would be.

First up will be “a very iconic Australian car” that is almost certainly the rumoured Cobra, which will be a limited-edition run coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Ford’s famous 1-2 finish at Bathurst in 1977 by Allan Moffat and Colin Bond.

With a reported 302kW of power on tap from its 5.4-litre V8 Boss engine (an increase of 12kW), the Cobra is expected to be the first FPV vehicle to exceed the 300kW barrier.

The second new model “will be something that is very interesting and very unique to FPV”. GoAuto believes this will be the long-overdue turbocharged Territory-based model, which will be FPV’s first SUV.

 center imageLeft: GoAutoNews, February 7, 2007. Click link below to read this story.

On only his sixth day in the job, Mr Barrett made it apparent that FPV will be considerably different under his leadership than in the past, when it has been somewhat low-key and conservative.

“We build performance cars and that’s what we will continue to do, but we will build cars that the market wants,” he said. “You can read that any way you like, but I will say that we don’t want to be labelled as the Falcon GT Car Company.

“If it’s got a Ford badge on the front of it, we’ll consider it.”

Asked about four-cylinder cars in general, and Focus specifically, ahead of its local production, Mr Barrett indicated a shift in philosophy. “We have to look at what the market dictates and the small car is something that is coming to the fore of what people desire,” he said. “If we can make a performance vehicle out of it, we will.

“I would say it is not (in the) planning (stage), it is more a concept at the moment, but it isn’t something that I would shy away from.

“I think we need to work with Ford on what their plans are for four- and five-cylinder cars and I would consider that if they are going to make (Focus) locally, I agree that it is something that we would have to consider very carefully. I think it would be a good option for us down the line.”

Although Tasmanian-born, Mr Barrett has spent a good deal of his working life in the United Kingdom and sounds keen to bring to Australia the excitement of Ford’s RS badge, which has been associated with classic four-cylinder models in Europe since the 1960s.

But it is the GTHO badge that really excites the new FPV boss and self-proclaimed enthusiast (see next page).

Mr Barrett has not worked in the general motoring arena previously, but his automotive pedigree is strong.

His father raced in Tasmania with the likes of Ross Ambrose (father of Marcos) and Brian Bowe (father of John), and the young Rod enjoyed enough success as a racing driver in his home state to warrant moving to England in 1985, aged 25, like many aspiring young guns.

“I was good, but not good enough,” was his frank assessment, but the need to work for a living led to an involvement in promotions and PR at the famed Brands Hatch circuit, which set him on a sales and marketing career. Upon returning to Australia in 1992, he rejoined Coca-Cola and became instrumental in setting up Wayne Gardner’s V8 Commodore team, as well as sponsoring Paul Morris in BMWs and Commodores, before joining the Foster’s group.

Two years ago he was lured by Prodrive chief David Richards to head up V8 Supercar team Ford Performance Racing, which he helped transform from a basket case to a team that led Bathurst and then finished second in the teams’ championship last year.

After watching the fruitless six-month search for a new head of FPV (following the notorious January executive clear-out that riled Ford), Mr Barrett admits that he threw his hat into the ring and used his selling skills to make a case that Prodrive AT Asia-Pacific managing director Bryan Mears could not ignore.

Mr Richards was reluctant to lose his top man in the rejuvenated race team, but ultimately Mr Barrett’s wide sales and marketing experience, industry knowledge, passion for Australian motoring and working relationship with Ford Australia carried the day.

“Bryan Mears clearly said to me that the three things I have to do in the first three months is to build a team, and that’s something that’s not there at the moment, build a good relationship with Ford and the major players over there, and build a great relationship with the dealers,” said Mr Barrett.

He is making a flying start on the latter, meeting with all 75 FPV dealers nationally in the first two weeks of his tenure.

Ford Australia is understood to have been upset by Prodrive’s sacking of six senior FPV executives in January – including Mr Barrett’s predecessor, Sak Ryopponen – but put on a united front for the media in Sydney last week with Mr Barrett appearing alongside Ford boss Tom Gorman. However, he made it clear to GoAuto that Prodrive would continue to call the shots.

“My brief is that Prodrive does call the shots. It is the major shareholder, even though it’s a small percentage at 51-49. We work closely with Ford, but the programs are initiated from FPV, they are not initiated from Ford, but we consult with Ford and I would hate to think that I have come into a job where it is not a consultative process.”

Seven months after Prodrive took drastic action at FPV, Barrett puts it all on the table...

FPV’s controversial recent history

“I’M GOING to draw a line in the sand and say, what’s been has been and that’s history. I’ve got to start from August 1 and move on. Going back to January 19 is now a long time. I have other priorities to look at so I haven’t spent a lot of time analysing why or how, I’ve really now got to take this line and run with it. I’m not looking back.”

His job description:

“BRYAN Mears told me it is not the job that Sak left, or David Flint’s job, it’s a job that is going to totally focus on sales and marketing and I said that suits me much better than looking after production and logistics as well.”

Leaked photos of the 2008 FPV range:

“I WAS disappointed to see those images released. How and why, I don’t know. There’s investigations going on how that happened. I’m disappointed because this is an exceptionally good car that’s coming. If those images are the final product, the reaction that we’re getting is fantastic, but I think it’s a long way before we get to the final model. I’m excited by the ‘Orion’. I think it’s a great car, something that’s needed in the Ford range and I think the FPV product will be a great motor car.”

The effect the leak will have on the launch:

“If it had happened three months in advance, we might have been in a more precarious situation, but they are so far out we don’t know if they’re the final car or not yet. But the reaction has been good to them – if that’s the car. There were various images around.”

How he will do things differently:

“MY MAJOR role is sales and marketing. The previous management were responsible for the entire business but mine will be to present aspirational motor vehicles that the market desires. We’re not the Falcon GT Car Company, we’re Ford Performance Vehicles. We will look at cars in the Ford range and see what we can make a performance vehicle out of, but I’m not saying that there’s anything coming right now.”

FPV’s strained relationship with Ford:

“(FORD Australia president) Tom Gorman and I presented to the media on Friday afternoon in Sydney as a united front. I think that what has been has been, and I think that the relationship I have had with Ford through my motor racing involvement and particularly with Tom will only get stronger now that I am in this position. I can’t feel any bad blood between the two companies. How I’ve been invited into the Ford frame immediately in week one, I can’t see there’s any animosity there at all.”

His independence:

“I REPORT to Bryan (Mears), but I’m quite sure that once I’ve got my feet under the table he’s indicated that it’s my business. I will always consult him as any good manager would do to their leader, but I think Bryan will step back out of the face of FPV and endeavour to promote me as that face.”

The power race with HSV:

“IS IT the viewpoint of the industry that we must (have more power)? Is it the viewpoint of the consumer that we must? I want to create a car that’s an all-round package, not necessarily the most powerful, but I’ll be led by others at the moment on whether that is the emotional topic or the business topic. It’s not important for me at the moment to come out with 1kW more just so I can have a bigger badge on the back of the car.”

Toyota’s TRD Aurion:

“IT WILL be interesting to see how it will be accepted by the market. I’m not concerning myself with that at the moment. I believe that the people who buy our cars and our competitor’s cars have a long history of Australian V8 rear-drive. While the Aurion will go down as a competitor on paper, I don’t know how much impact that will have on that Australian V8, rear-wheel drive, Holden versus Falcon, tribal value. I just don’t see the FPV buyer all of a sudden swaying themselves down the road to this new arrival.”

His management style:

“EMPOWERING. I like to be open, honest, communicative. I’m the sort of guy people can pick up the phone and call and I’ll give you an answer. I want to lead by example I wouldn’t get anyone to do what I wouldn’t do. I empower people to do the job and just run it as an open and honest business. I’m an accessible leader.”

Read more:

Sak speaks out

Prodrive chief assures dealers over FPV's future

Download GoAutoNews issue 371

Internal study undertaken prior to FPV sackings

Prodrive welds axe over FPV staff

Prodrive's fast track into Asia

FPV: Everything is back on the table

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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