Avoid the Holden Commodore trap! Ford must stop over-reliance on Ranger and Everest with upcoming crossover, SUV, 4×4, truck and electric car | Opinion – Car News

After about half a decade of intense research and development, Ford’s new Ranger is out of the hands of its creators and in the public domain.

Reviews are shining, demand is strong and supply is scarce (as with most things nowadays). All Ford needs to do now is sit back and watch the orders – and profits – flow in.

Completed work. Congratulations to everyone.

Of course, that’s an oversimplification of a never-ending process, in an ever-changing environment where you could be on top one day and struggle to keep your head above water the next.

For Ford Australia, staying afloat means ensuring the Ranger’s status as one of the country’s favorite vehicles. After all, in 2021 it was our second best seller, just behind its closest rival, the Toyota HiLux, each with 50,279 versus 52,801 units.

Good results, of course, but while the Ranger accounts for two-thirds of all Ford’s local sales, the HiLux accounts for less than a quarter of Toyota. Combined with the associated Everest SUV, Ford’s figure jumped from 66 to 82 percent, or 58,600 of nearly 71,400 sales. Adding the Fortuner SUV to the HiLux, on the other hand, only increased Toyota’s tally from 23.6 to just 25.3 percent.

Four out of five Ford sales of either the Ranger or the Everest are fraught with danger to the Blue Oval. Even when Ford was the market leader in the 1980s with the Falcon at number one, its small Laser car was also in the top five while the mid-sized Telstar was in the top 10, resulting in a mix that is more akin to Toyota today.

Now that the company has surprisingly scrapped the Fiesta ST and Focus ST, it will rely more on its trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles like the Transit, especially since moving away from hot hatches is the end of an era for Ford. and a push for respectable rival alternatives like the Suzuki Swift Sport and Hyundai i30 N.

Ford had to learn from Holden’s myopic dependence on the Commodore.

Holden risked everything in 2001 developing the VE Commodore to replace the best-selling VT-based model in 2006, but at the time SUVs were destroying sedan sales while the Global Financial Crisis threatened to destroy export markets vital to sustainability.

However, despite such setbacks, the Commodore dice were rolled again, for the 2013 VF and 2018 ZB, but the latter sold so poorly that General Motors ended Holden in 2020, after 71 years as an Australian automaker on its own.

That’s why Ford had to stop relying too much on the Ranger.

President and CEO, Andrew Birkic responded to this question at the recent Ranger launch in Australia by reaffirming his belief in consumers recognizing world-class products – undoubtedly the newest Ranger – and acting accordingly.

Plus, pick-up sales are growing, not shrinking. That’s a major difference compared to what Holden faced with the Commodore in its decline years. The big car party was over even before VE was released.

That’s fine for now, especially as part of the Ranger’s critical acclaim by default, as no other pick-up maker seems to bother pushing boundaries like Ford has. Yes, the Isuzu D-Max/Mazda BT-50 twins do it for safety in 2020, but they trail Ranger in vehicle dynamics, refinement, comfort, packaging and functionality.

But, how long will this bubble last for Ford? What if the next generation HiLux, Nissan Navara or Mitsubishi Triton finally bring their A-games to life when their successors appear sometime in 2024? The same goes for the rumored Kia and Hyundai pick-ups.

At least Ford has confirmed that the latest Ranger will adopt electrification in some form over its lifetime, and that should remain relevant in time against newer competitors. But that only shifts the deck chairs on the Titanic, should overall Ranger sales start to decline with age or competition in the years to come.

That’s why diversification is key.

Again, if Commodore Holden’s lessons teach us anything, reinforcements for the Ranger probably shouldn’t be in the form of a sedan or low-riding hatchback.

Ford’s lineup of future passenger cars looks pretty blurry right now, with the traditional Fiesta supermini and Focus small car likely coming to an end while, like the Falcon, the Mondeo is history.

With the seventh-generation redesign debuting in September ahead of the 2024 model year launch, only the Mustang muscle car seems certain of the future here as far as the well-established Ford nameplate among passenger cars is concerned.

What comes from Ford’s Northern Hemisphere-centric agreement with Volkswagen to use the latter’s MEB electric architecture for future small cars and midsize SUVs remains unknown. However, as exciting and progressive as we can be, we can’t imagine them being a sales pillar to help support Ranger in Australia.

There’s more promise in the increasingly popular Transit van also from Europe, but that’s still small in terms of sales, under four percent of Ford’s total local volume last year.

The answer to reducing Ford’s over-reliance on the Ranger, inevitably, seemed to lie in other vehicles and SUVs, and those that were increasingly electrified at the time.

We expect Australia’s announcement of the Mustang Mach-E before the end of this year, around the same time the large E-Transit van finally lands, and ahead of the launch of the smaller, next-generation E-Transit Cargo. in 2024.

But, again, this is a minor cast for now, backing a string of potential mainstream superstars either already available or in the process of making their way to the world stage.

Let’s start with the long-awaited mid-sized crossover wagon that is rumored to be the Fusion Active North America. Conceptually similar to Subaru’s wildly popular Outback, it looks like there’s no need to worry about being placed under the Everest and above the brilliant Puma and mid-sized Escape SUV from Europe. Look out for a global announcement about it soon.

Still in America, Ford is clearly testing the waters with the right-hand drive conversion (RHD) F-150 trucks starting next year, to see if the 2027/8 replacement should be factory RHD – different odds, given the company’s 2019 statement that all future truck platforms include Ranger will merge into one flexible, electrification-ready architecture developed in Detroit and out by the end of the decade.

Yes, that’s how we found out that the T6.2 was the last mainstream vehicle in Australia.

So the $100,000 giant might be working here as a niche money spinner against RAM and GM Silverados. However, Ford could show real leadership by investing in a monocoque-bodied Maverick for Australia.

Based on the Escape architecture, it essentially replaces the Focus hatch as the brand’s entry-level model in North America. The huge sales receipts there prove that thinking outside the box works. And everyone loves the theme-identical Subaru Brumby, especially in Australia…

Should Ford follow Toyota’s lead with the best-selling Kluger by also importing its alternative, the Explorer, from North America? To date, the limited supply Kluger is still up 140 percent and the second best-selling big SUV in Australia after the evergreen Prado brand, so why not? Buyers are clearly plenty and are ready to spend a lot of money on the hybrid version, which the US Ford accommodates.

Finally, of course, there’s the Bronco. Are we talking about the off-road-focused Bronco Sport (again Escape-derived) to give Ford Australia a real breakthrough against the Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5, or (ironically) the T6. The 2 Ranger-based 4×4 Broncos that evoke the likes of the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Jeep Wrangler, they will find a ready and suitable market locally.

We’re giving the Ford Australia boss a final word on this delicate matter for now.

“There are a lot of problems,” Mr Birkic told Car Guide.

“Is that the right wheel? Do customers want it? And can you get it by the quantity (to justify) the volume (given the special Australian engineering and homologation all models have to do)?

“Right now, we’ve done an excellent job of bringing vehicle bandwidth to our customers and I think we’re doing well.

“All you have to do is figure out where you’re going to play. That’s what we’ve been doing with the Ranger, and the Ranger has evolved since we launched it in 2011. We’re constantly learning and we know where we’re doing well and we certainly want to play to our strengths, and that’s what we’ve done.

“I’m quite comfortable with Ranger. It’s the right vehicle for the Australian market, and with our pre-orders we’re in a good place to capitalize on that going forward.”

So does it exclude every model mentioned above? The answer is ambiguous.

“We will always look at what Ford has to offer in the future, and we do, but at this stage we have no plans,” Birkic said.

Do you agree that Ford cannot rely solely on the Ranger to secure its long-term survival in Australia? Tell us.

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