Ford Australia president and CEO, Graeme Whickman, made the statement at the launch of the 2016 Ford Ranger in Victoria this week, where it was brought to his attention that numerous ute brands – including Toyota – had been offering discounted driveaway deals that Ford hadn’t been able to match.
Earlier this year when Ford Australia announced higher pricing for its updated Ranger Series II ute, there was always the question of whether the company had jumped the gun ahead of the arrival of the all-new Toyota HiLux, which launches next month.
However, Whickman said Ford will stick by its higher-priced-than-rivals strategy, because buyers are willing to pay.
“Our position in the market has been pretty constant for quite a few years,” Whickman said.
“It’s a bit hard for me to comment on whether a HiLux at $47,990 is the right or wrong thing to do: they may have had a lot of stock; whatever their strategy was, that’s where they were.”
Whickman said he wasn’t concerned about where the new HiLux will be positioned – and it is very likely the brand will drop prices on some models, given it has been sharpening the knife on some of its popular variants over the past 12 months, including the Corolla hatch (increased standard specification and revised prices) and Camry (new standard goodies for some models, plus lower prices).
“They could go anywhere they want [with HiLux pricing],” Whickman said.
“I’m not really too concerned about that. I mean it will be interesting if they suddenly turn around and cut $10,000 out of their price. But it would be pretty hard for them to do that, I would imagine.”
Whickman suggested that he believes there are now two tiers of utes in the Australian market – essentially those that are often backed by big retail incentives, such as the Holden Colorado and Mitsubishi Triton, and others that sell well despite higher prices, like the Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok and Nissan Navara.
“I don’t compare [Ranger] to the other models of $10,000 or $15,000 cheaper. I refuse to acknowledge the comparison, frankly,” he said.
“I wouldn't want to be characterised as calling the competition cheap and cheerful. I think there appears to be two categories of utes at the moment. You could probably argue, I mean, clearly Ford and Toyota are there. I’m not so sure Amarok is there or not … they’re a quality brand, right? So their perception will be up with the leaders anyway.
“I think you’ve had the Mitsis (Mitsubishis) of the world… Nissan will bring their product in a more worthy fashion. So who knows where [HiLux] is going to be.
“But at the end of the day, I’m feeling confident that what we’ve got to offer is a pretty good product offering. We’ll live or die by that product offering.
“In terms of pricing – consumers have been consistently willing to put their hard-earned cash down on a product that’s pretty decent. That relationship hasn’t wavered over the last number of years.”
Indeed, Ford is up in terms of sales of the Ranger in Australia. There have been 16,157 Rangers sold so far this year (enough for about 15 per cent of market share) while 2015 saw the vehicle rank second only to the HiLux, something it could replicate this year given the buzz around the new model.