Once great at core subject, but staring out the window since. Plenty coming to the road but Ford still struggles to sell anything not built in Australia. HQ and dealers need to shift into top gear and convince shoppers to buy new arrivals, which could be harder than sounds.
Sales*: 67,924 (-6.2%)
2014 sales forecast: 79,500
Wheels prediction for 2015: 4th
*To end of October
THE 21st century hasn’t been kind to Ford, a former top-selling brand. Despite the arrival of Australia’s first locally produced dedicated SUV, the Territory, and some seriously impressive Falcons, it hasn’t hooked buyers with its imported models. Over the last decade Ford has had to get used to a life without the might of its former sales darling, the Falcon. But customers have also largely shunned the Blue Oval when it comes to the Focus, Fiesta and Mondeo -- all quality cars.
In 1996 Ford sold 91,786 locally produced cars (77,835 of which were Falcons) – more than it will sell of all 15 models in its 2014 line-up -- despite the market growing 70 percent in the process. In short, Ford has shed market share quicker than Bert Newton has follicles.
In 2014 the Fiesta is only the seventh best-selling light car, the Focus the sixth best-selling small car and the Mondeo fifth in the shrinking medium car category.
SUVs haven’t been much friendlier to Ford. The quirky EcoSport is an also-ran, while the Kuga is regularly pummelled by category big hitters.
Then there’s the Falcon, which has floundered in the decimated large-car category.
NEXT year is shaping up to be H-U-G-E for Ford. The hope is that the just revived Falcon and Territory models will awake from their sales slumber, which has seen the former bounce from one record low for monthly sales to the next.
As well as a second-quarter update to the Focus (Ford’s second-best selling model) there’s an update to the Ranger, the ute that is the brand’s biggest seller.
The late 2014 arrival of a revised Kuga range – complete with a heartier 2.0-litre turbocharged engine – and the better-late-than-never arrival early in the year of the Mondeo (it was launched in the US two years ago) means there will be a freshness to dealerships for the first time in years.
But Ford's big news is the Everest. Built in Thailand but engineered in Australia the new Ranger-based SUV will wear serious off-road hardware, and an independent coil sprung rear suspension system (in lieu of the Ranger’s leaf spring live axle) said to vastly improve dynamics.
For the icing on the cake, the Mustang will return to add much-needed image bling now that Ford's FPV performjance arm has gone. An independent rear-end for the first time the new pony car (in four-cylinder turbo and V8) should mean the looks back up the driving dynamics.
DESPITE the sexy new arrivals, Ford still has the very real possibility of being unable to sell its wares. For years Ford has talked of having the best cars in various categories – and won awards to prove it – but the sales results rarely reflect it.Part of it could come down to positioning, with some odd moves sometimes turning buyers away (the decision to leave reversing cameras off most versions of the Kuga just as rivals were fitting them as standard is one example).
In theory, the slow sales problem should be an easy one to fix, but it never has been in the past. The issue of positioning is also a potential quick fix.
Key new ute contenders – the Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Toyota HiLux – also threaten the Ranger, while the Focus slugs it out in what is currently the biggest segment, but one that is contracting and likely to contract further as new small SUVs flood the market.
Ford also runs the risk of cannabilising its own sales – yep, those ones it already doesn’t have enough of. There’s a good chance the all-new Mondeo will do most of what a Falcon buyer is looking for, all while using less fuel. Likewise, the fresher Everest appears as if it will do much of what the Territory will do, but with added ruggedness.
One dark horse is the imminent introduction of Japanese and South Korean free trade agreements, which will give prime rivals such as Hyundai, Mazda and Toyota more room to move with features and/or pricing on key competitors.