As we wrote on Monday, Ford needs help.
The brand is extremely reliant on the Ranger ute and its Everest SUV spin-off. Combined, those two models account for more than 85 per cent of Ford’s total sales in Australia – that’s four out of every five models sold here.
The loss of the Focus and Fiesta ST hot hatches is another blow and the brand can’t keep cutting models and expecting to grow and thrive locally. Thankfully, in the past year Ford Australia has confirmed the the iconic F-150 will be converted to right-hand drive and sold locally, while the E-Transit commercial van will begin its electric future.
With that in mind, we’ve scoured Ford’s global range and looked at the models the brand really needs if it wants to take some pressure off the Ranger and expand its Australian fortunes.
There are certain models that might seem like a good fit on the surface, but would ultimately have limited sales potential in Australia. Specifically we’re talking about the Bronco and Explorer SUVs, which are both exciting models which could add sales but probably at the expense of the Everest – so they missed the cut for our short list.
If there’s one model Australia’s are awaiting with bated breath (including some inside Ford Australia HQ and dealerships no doubt) it’s the all-electric, sporty SUV. This was a bold gamble by the blue oval, attaching its most famous nameplate to a vehicle that was extremely different. But it appears to be paying off, because in the USA Ford delivered more Mach-E in July than it did ‘conventional’ Mustangs.
The Mach-E is seemingly ideal for the Australian market. We love performance cars, we love SUVs and we’re increasingly loving electric cars – so the Mach-E ticks all the boxes. Seemingly it’s a matter of when, not if, Ford Australia will offer the car locally but, frankly, it can’t come soon enough.
The news that Ford Australia has convinced its overlords in Detroit to let it establish a local conversion operation for the brand’s iconic ute is a huge boost for the company. Certainly the new F-150 powered by the 3.5-litre V6 EcoBoost engines will be a popular new addition to the line-up, attracting customers who like their utes large.
However, there remains a huge opportunity for Ford to set the agenda when it comes to electric utes by introducing the F-150 Lightning ahead of all would-be rivals. The Lightning would be a game-changer for the brand, showcasing its electric future alongside the Mach-E and telling Australians that the Ford of the future has them covered no matter if they want something sporty or hugely practical.
Ford has struggled to sell any model in big numbers aside from the Ranger, so why not lean into that strength and add another ute. The Maverick is positioned in the US market as an affordable, entry-level model to the Ford range and there’s no reason it couldn’t perform a similar role here.
Ford has struggled to sell its Escape and Puma small SUVs, so the Maverick might stand a better chance of breaking through for the brand as a major supporting model behind the Ranger.
It would also potentially create a new market segment for SUV-based utes that are more focused around people with an active lifestyle rather than tradies needing a workhorse.
Part of the reason Ford has struggled to sell the Escape and Puma is the fierce competition in the small SUV market. There are so many very good but very similar rivals that the blue oval’s offerings fail to stand out from the pack.
Which is why the very different Bronco Sport has the potential to be a beacon for the brand and zig while everyone else zags. The Bronco Sport isn’t like the Bronco beyond its styling, it’s actually on the same underpinnings as the Escape but it’s the looks that really make it special.
This looks like the find of compact SUV younger buyers would flock to, giving Ford Australia a foundation for the future.
New electric SUV
Ford entered a joint-venture with Volkswagen to develop commercial vehicles – starting with the Ranger and Amarok duo – but has since expanded to include a number of electric vehicles. The first product of this partnership is expected to be “an all-electric crossover” that will debut in 2023.
This is expected to be a Ford version of the Volkswagen ID.4, using the same ‘MEB’ underpinnings and electric powertrain but with unique Ford styling.
This would be a mainstream alternative to the Mustang Mach-E, potentially giving Ford its own entry into what is expected to become a key battleground for car makers in the coming years. We already have the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 but coming soon are the Toyota bZ4X, Subaru Solterra and Skoda Enyaq – to name a few. This is a race Ford can’t afford to start from the back of the pack again.