Decision time is edging closer for Ford Australia, as it seeks to finalise its plan of attack for the massive family SUV market post the demise of the locally-made Territory in October 2016.
Various options are being courted to supplement the rugged new Australian-designed Everest (see our recent review of that car here), in order to form a two-pronged large SUV attack.
Speaking with Ford at the international launch of the new T6 Everest this week, one thing became clear —that body-on-frame SUV, based on the same T6 architecture as the Ranger ute, is no simple Territory replacement.
The company clearly also needs a softer, more car-like option to capitalise on the massive volume growth in that end of the market. Naturally, being a global ‘One Ford’ member, it has options. There are 165,000 Territory owners out there, many of whom are counting on something for their next car.
Chief among these is the advanced new Edge crossover — which you can read about in detail here — that is the obvious favourite for the role, given its rollout into right-hand-drive markets such as the UK has already been detailed.
There appears to be another option, though: the next Explorer, a known badge sold in in previous generations during the 1990s and early 2000s, but which in recent iterations has been very US-centric.
It appears likely that the next version, understood to be due as soon as 2017, could be made with a more global strategy in mind, pointing to a potential return to right-hand-drive mass production - a la the new Mustang.
We understand Ford Australia hasn’t ruled this model out internally, though its hypothetical launch timing would mean the company could go a number of months between its local arrival and the end of Territory in a manner that would theoretically not affect the Edge.
Of course, Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly line could just pump out a glut of Territorys at the end of the factory’s life, giving dealers months of stock as they play the waiting game.
We know the company is eager to begin a public dialogue, and is seeking internal resolution as to which direction it will go in. We doubt it would go in both.
Interestingly, and counter to what we've heard before, the company might also retire the 'Territory badge' altogether rather than re-badging an imported vehicle with the legacy name.
One Ford insider told us that any imported vehicle would have to be worthy of the hallowed name, and that any fundamentally different vehicle (the Territory's dynamic nous is iconic) might be best served by keeping its foreign name.