As the old saying goes, ‘if you can't beat ‘em, give up and focus on doing the things you do well and don't worry about the biggest market segments in the country.'
Ok, that may not be quite how it goes, but it's what Ford Australia is doing. The brand announced this week that it is effectively giving up on the biggest sectors of the market, small and mid-size SUVs, in order to put all of its efforts behind its commercial vehicle-based models.
It confirmed that it will drop the petrol-powered Puma model by mid-2024 and instead only offer the upcoming all-electric version of the small SUV. This follows its previous announcement that it would drop the Escape, as well as the Fiesta and Focus small cars prior to that.
This will leave the brand's sales hopes pinned on the Ranger, which was Australia's best-selling vehicle in 2023, as well as its SUV spin-off, the Everest and its other commercial vehicles, the Transit Custom, Transit and F-150. The incoming new Mustang will be the brand's only petrol-powered ‘passenger car' by the end of 2024, and the newly-announced Tourneo, a people-mover version of the Transit Custom delivery van, will also join the range.
Ford hasn't given up on SUVs completely though (Everest aside), with the electric Puma joining the Mustang Mach-E. But with non-Tesla EV sales still quite modest it would be unrealistic to think either of these models would be high-volume sellers for Ford Australia.
Even so, the decision to abandon both the small and mid-size SUV segments, which accounted for more than 440,000 sales and 36 per cent of the total car market in 2023, is a major shift for what was once one of Australia's most popular and diverse car companies.
“We don't make these decisions lightly,” a Ford spokesperson told Torquecafe. “We go through a rigorous process and weigh up many factors when we look at future opportunities, and ultimately we need to make commercial decisions about where we focus our resources.”
Ford Australia president, Andrew Birkic admitted in Ford's public statement confirming the end of the petrol Puma, that the company acknowledges its strength is in its commercial vehicles and their spin-offs.
“Our focus is on vehicles and in segments where we can really meet the unique needs of Australian customers,” Birkic said. “We see particular opportunities in commercial vehicles – from Transit to E-Transit, Transit Custom to E-Transit Custom, alongside Ranger.”
No timing for the new Puma Gen-E has been confirmed, but the latest generation Mustang is due in Australia in the coming months, to rejuvenate the Ford Performance range, alongside the Ranger Raptor.