Ford has been on a roll lately, revealing a string of exciting new models. The new generation F-150, all-electric F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E, the rugged Bronco and, most recently, the Maverick ‘baby Ranger’ ute.
Unfortunately all these models have one thing in common – they’re not coming to Australia.
Ford USA is seemingly hogging all the exciting new models, leaving Ford Australia to focus its efforts on the Ranger and Mustang.
The two have helped usher in a new era for the blue oval down under, filling the gap left by the departed Falcon, but the rest of the range – Escape, Puma, Focus, etc – have failed to make a big impact on the sales charts.
Which leaves us wishing and hoping for some of these newer models, as well as other overseas options such as the Explorer, to make it to local showrooms and give the blue oval a boost.
Obviously we’d love the Shelby GT500 and GT350, but Ford Australia has already given us the R-Spec and Mach 1 so as exciting as they are, it just doesn’t make sense to add them now. It’s also reportedly too hard, or simply too expensive, to build the Shelby variants in right-hand drive, so that rules them out on a technical basis.
That’s not the case for the rest of our list, however. While these may all be left-hand drive only at present, there’s actually only limited technical and financial challenges to bringing all of them to Australia in right-hand drive.
The most obvious candidate for Ford Australia, and a model the brand’s local management has previously and repeatedly spoken about wanting, is the F-150. Australians have always had an affinity for utes, but in recent years our tastes have expanded to American-style ‘pickups’ like the F-150. That much is clear by the successful launch of the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 in the past few years.
The F-150 beats those models in the US, so there’s no reason it could add some meaningful (and profitable) sales to Ford’s bottomline here. The catch is building it in right-hand drive, something the US has been reluctant to do, so Ford needs to find a partner like Ram and Chevrolet (GMSV) have done, Walkinshaw Automotive Group, to convert them locally.
Introducing the F-150 gives the brand a chance to expand its popular and lucrative performance ute line-up with the original – the F-150 Raptor.
The F-150 Lightning would be another smart addition, as it would have big appeal to tradies looking for a practical workhorse without the need to fill up with diesel on a regular basis.
The fact Australia misses out on the revived Bronco is both baffling and disappointing. That’s because the foundation of the new Bronco is the ‘T6’ Ranger, the ute platform designed and engineered by Ford Australia’s team in Melbourne. That means the basic underpinnings of the Bronco aren’t right-hand drive compatible, but have already been built that way.
It’s a crying shame because the rugged, adventurous Bronco would make a great addition to Ford Australia’s line-up, sitting nicely alongside the Ranger and Everest for those who enjoy an active lifestyle and need a practical and capable vehicle.
Jeep currently has the market all to itself but if any vehicle can take on and defeat the Wrangler it’s the Bronco.
Ford USA not only relaunched the Bronco, but has created a new ‘Bronco Family’ with the addition of the Bronco Sport. This is a smaller SUV (approximately Toyota RAV4-sized) that is designed to exude Bronco ruggedness while still feeling at home in the city.
While there’s nothing overtly wrong with Ford Australia’s current offering in this segment, the Escape, equally it doesn’t have any standout qualities that will tempt buyers away from the class-leaders; RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, etc. The Bronco Sport could do that, by offering something special and different it would give Ford a chance to carve its own place in what is one of the most important segments in the country. While most of its rivals are true ‘soft-roaders’ the Bronco Sport has genuine off-road capability.
The Bronco Sport would appeal to the many Australians who need family transport Monday to Friday but want an SUV that can get dirty on the weekends.
It’s highly achievable too, as the Bronco Sport is built on the same basic underpinnings as the Escape.
Australia stands on the brink of an electric revolution with more and more car brands introducing EVs and an increasing number of subsidies from various governments to help the uptake. While Tesla has attracted plenty of attention and brands including Hyundai and Kia are set to introduce new EVs, no model has as much potential to excite and entice buyers to their first electric car than the Mustang Mach-E.
We Aussies love performance cars like the Mustang and we love SUVs, so Ford’s decision to combine them is genius; even if it has upset some Mustang purists. The recently-launched Mach-E GT will run 0-60mph (98km/h) in just 3.5 seconds and has a driving range of 490km – two stats that would undoubtedly appeal to local buyers.
The combination of F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E gives Ford the potential to take control of the EV market in Australia – if only we could get them here…
Given the success of the Ranger and the potential for F-150 it only makes sense for Ford to add more utes, which is where the Maverick enters the picture. This is the newest addition to Ford’s American line-up, it’s a ‘compact pickup’ based on the same underpinnings as the Escape/Bronco Sport. That makes it closer in spirit to the Falcon Ute than anything else in the entire blue oval range.
Like the Bronco Sport it would appeal to the type of Aussie that has adventurous weeks, possibly at the racetrack, so enjoys the practical benefits of a ute, but doesn’t want to drive a big, cumbersome ute every day.
There’s also nothing like it on the market today, so while it’s unquestionably a risk it could also help Ford carve out its own unique piece of the market.