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Market Insight: Ford looks for Edge in SUV segment

Edging closer: Ford Australia isn’t saying so just yet, but the Territory-replacing Edge SUV will be a crucial part of its line-up from around late 2016.

Edge SUV represents the future for Ford in Oz while Territory’s days are numbered


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27 Jun 2014

A FACELIFTED Territory is just around the corner, but all attention has turned to Ford’s new-generation Edge that will replace the Australian-made SUV when the American motor company closes down its manufacturing operations here in 2016.

Naturally enough, Ford Australia is still to confirm the Edge for release in this market given the final version of the locally designed and developed Territory will be launched before the end of the year and still has a significant role to play in keeping sales ticking over, and the company’s factory doors open, for the next couple of years.

But as the embodiment of the ‘One Ford’ mantra – an advanced model built on a global platform at one of its favoured manufacturing bases (in this case, Canada), with broad enough appeal for international consumption – the redesigned Edge represents the future for the Blue Oval brand in Australia while the Territory is on the way out.

Senior management in the US and Europe this week officially confirmed right-hand-drive production and sale in more than 100 markets – with an emphasis on Asia-Pacific, which includes Australia – as they highlighted the new role the Edge must now play in taking Ford beyond SUV leadership in North America to other parts of the world.

Last year, Ford sold a record 1.2 million SUVs worldwide – up 38 per cent on 2012 – and says it has experienced “exponential growth in global markets” including a 20 per cent rise in Europe and a 4.5 per cent share of the SUV segment in China, up from less than one per cent in 2012.

The company is also banking on China being the world’s biggest SUV market by 2018.

In Australia, Ford’s SUV sales last year were up 9.7 per cent to 18,304 units, with the new Kuga compact SUV (3874) compensating for a 2.6 per cent fall in Territory sales (down to 14,261), which went off the boil after a promising surge brought with the 2011 SZ series.

Notably, Ford’s share of the Australian SUV market last year was only 5.5 per cent – well behind Toyota (16.8), Subaru and Nissan (both 8.8), Mitsubishi (7.7), Hyundai (7.6), Mazda (7.3), Holden (6.9) and Jeep (6.6).

To the end of May this year, Ford’s SUV sales were up 1.8 per cent with Kuga and the new EcoSport city SUV compensating for a worrying 33.5 per cent drop-off in Territory sales. Ford is holding a 5.0 per cent share of the SUV segment, while SUVs are accounting for just 20 per cent of its overall sales.

Toyota, in comparison, has 29 per cent of its sales in the SUV segment.

Ford Australia will expect improved sales with the updated Territory’s release but, realistically, substantial growth is unlikely to come before the Edge arrives, probably at the end of 2016 – about two years after production starts at the Oakville assembly plant near Toronto.

From this factory, Ford North America president Joe Hinrichs explained last year that Canada remained a viable production base for Ford because of its ability to supply the entire North American industry, while Australia’s combination of low domestic sales volume, unfavourable exchange rates and its “isolated location” meant that it was not a good export base and does not have a big enough local market to support manufacturing.

Just as the EcoSport has slotted in under Kuga, the Edge will, with Territory retired, fill the high-volume gap in Ford’s Australian line-up between Kuga and the forthcoming locally developed Everest based on the Ranger utility.

Everest is to be a harder-core off-roader but will play an important role in maintaining a seven-seat option that will be lost with the Territory, while the Edge – a five-seater only at this stage – will be a lynchpin model charged with not only boosting Ford’s SUV market share but regaining its former position as Australia’s top-selling SUV.

In its first full year on sale (2005), Ford sold more than 23,000 Territorys, outselling both the Toyota Prado and Kluger combined and any of the smaller SUVs that are now increasingly the dominant force.

But the locally developed SUV, which sits on the same platform as the equally doomed Falcon, has been well down on that mark ever since, falling to as low as 10,884 units in 2009 – a figure that will not be eclipsed in 2014 unless buyer sentiment improves.

In contrast, Ford sold just shy of 130,000 examples of the Edge in the US last year, the second-highest tally for the model that in its first-generation guise has been primarily a North American vehicle.

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