Ford Australia’s Sinead McAlary spoke with CarAdvice about the first half of 2010 and looked ahead to the rest of the year…
The year so far
Ford sales have increased 5.9 percent in 2010, compared with the industry average increase of 16.7 percent. Falcon sales are up more than 10 percent compared with the first six months of 2009, while Ranger 4×4, Fiesta and Territory have been among the brand’s best improvers. Focus and Falcon Ute sales have both decreased by around 17 percent and market share for both vehicles has dropped about two percent.
“We actually consider this year to have been quite strong for us,” Ms McAlary said. “We’re not quite at the industry average but we’ve been working overtime at our manufacturing facility ever since October last year so we’re basically selling everything we can build at the moment. We’re the only local manufacturer to work overtime. We would have been able to sell more cars from our imported line-up but we’ve had some issues with availability of vehicles from Europe and Thailand.”
Ms McAlary said Ford was proud to be the only local manufacturer to record a profit for 2009.
She said despite the downward trend, Focus sales had started to pick up following a more targeted advertising approach. “It had a couple of very hard months at the end of last year and the beginning of this year which is why we decided to, pardon the pun, focus on it some more.”
“Falcon Ute we’ve been pleased with. It outsold Commodore Ute last year but it is down a little bit this year so far so we’re working on that segment of the market. We think there was a bit of a balloon late last year in terms of orders out of the Federal Government’s incentives for small businesses and we think that could potentially be having an effect on Falcon Ute. But overall that car-derived ute segment is down as a segment, not just us,” she said.
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Note: Other sales include F250 4×2, Fairlane, Focus Coupe Cabriolet and Transit variants.
Despite introducing Euro IV emissions regulations on July 1, the Federal Government granted Ford an extension to continue building vehicles equipped with its Euro III-compliant LPG engine until the end of September. Ford says the replacement LPI liquid injection LPG engine will arrive sometime in 2011, with current model LPGs to satisfy the market in the meantime.
Despite knowing about the Euro IV deadline as early as 2005, Ms McAlary said the late decision in 2008 to stick with the I6 engine for the Falcon beyond 2010 meant the program was running slightly past deadline. “We kicked off that program in November 2008 which is very late for something that you want to engineer and test and bring to market by the middle of 2010. It’s actually been a very tight engineering program and very streamlined but it just couldn’t line-up.”
She denied the extension was just another example of the government propping up local manufacturers, and said the decision saved a number of jobs. “The Australian Government is very supportive of us. They looked at it pragmatically like we did and the overall benefit to the economy, to the Geelong community, to our manufacturing processes, etc. outweighed the three months of the emissions.”
Ms McAlary also denied suggestions that Thailand’s emergence as a manufacturing hub for Ford Motor Co in Asia-Pacific would put Ford’s commitment to Broadmeadows and Australia under a cloud. “Absolutely not. We’ve already announced that we’re spending $230 million in adding EcoBoost to Falcon next year, adding LPI to Falcon next year and diesel for Territory and all of those vehicles will be built in Broadmeadows. We wouldn’t be spending $230 million lightly.” The announcement of a new $US450 million ($517 million) C-car plant in Thailand may lead to cheaper and/or better-equipped Focus vehicles for Australia from 2012.
To the suggestion that the next Falcon could be sourced from Thailand, her answer was emphatic. “No. There are no plans for the Thai plant to build a Falcon competitor.”
Still to come in 2010
Sourcing of Fiesta will shift from Europe to Thailand with the new range set to arrive late in the third quarter. “Basically it’s the same model but there some changes to the model line-up which we haven’t announced yet … That is pretty major for us and it will also allow Fiesta to be even more competitive in the market,” Ms McAlary said.
Also on the way are the new V8 engines for the Falcon in the fourth quarter and a 2.0-litre diesel engine for the Mondeo wagon and hatch in the next couple of months. Ford Australia has come under considerable criticism for ‘holding back’ the Mondeo range to protect the Falcon. An updated Mondeo will launch in Europe in October with a 177kW 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine as well as a 147kW 2.2-litre TDCi diesel unit, but Ford Australia remains quiet on whether those powerplants will join the local line-up. “People are making assumptions which may or may not be right but we will tell everybody what we are doing with updated Mondeo at the right time,” Ms McAlary said. “We’ll save our fire.” Currently around 50 percent of Mondeo hatch sales in Australia are diesels.
Australian International Motor Show
“We will be massive at the Sydney Motor Show. We have a packed show at Sydney, none of which I can talk about in any detail at this stage, but it will be massive, I promise,” Ms McAlary said.
“The highlight would be the strength of the business overall, like the profits of 2009. Plus we’re doing really well in regards to 2010, and all the things that contribute to that such as working overtime, etc. are a definite highlight,” she said.
“A frustration would be some of our vehicle availability issues, Ranger particularly, and some with Fiesta,” she said.
Check back on Monday for CarAdvice’s Holden mid-year review 2010.