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Ford ponders Fairlane future

Fairlane fight: Ford's Tom Gorman is determined to lift sales of the Fairlane.

Slow sales prompt Ford review of long wheelbase luxury car plans

19 Jul 2004

FORD Australia is determined to fight its way back into the locally manufactured long wheelbase luxury market with Fairlane and LTD, it just hasn’t finalised how it is going to do it yet.

Company president Tom Gorman has identified the performance of his LWB models as one of the two main sales problems he faces, the other being the Focus.

While the small car issue can be addressed in the short term with pricing and deals, and next year by the arrival of the second generation Focus, Mr Gorman admits the Fairlane/LTD is a harder nut to crack.

But the company is considering some changes to flow through in 2005.

"Long wheelbase is not a huge volume for us, but it is very important to us," Mr Gorman said.

"I am personally – and we are as a company – committed to it. We have not done a good job there and we need to fix that – and we are working on it.

"Next year you will see some stuff if we are going to do it … We haven’t pulled the trigger on anything, we are still evaluating at this point. It isn’t just pricing … because price elasticity isn’t as severe here as it is in the small car segment or the light segment." The AU series Fairlane and LTD were hammered by the W-car based Holden Statesman and Caprice from their release just months apart in 1999, as our chart which traces sales since 2000 shows (below).

The Fairlane and LTD were upgraded with new exterior and interior treatments and much of the BA Falcon’s mechanical package in July 2003, with a sporty G220 Fairlane V8 model new to the range.

While they drew widespread praise for improved dynamics and sound isolation compared to the AU LWB, the styling similarity to the short wheelbase cars inside and out has played an important role in sales not lifting significantly.

"We’ve done a lot of market research and that (styling) has been raised as one issue but there are some things you can fix and some things you can’t, and exterior changes are very difficult in the short term," Mr Gorman said.

"But there are some things we can do and we are looking at all of them. So we are taking that very seriously even though the volume is small. We have got a lot of people working on it at the moment.

"It’s an important part of what we present in the market and I don’t think we can exit it.

"I think we have to make it work, and if you don’t get on it and talk yourself into it not being important, then you spiral down. If you are not there the other guy is going to make hay in that segment and we have to make sure that we stay competitive there."

Ford LWB v Holden LWB sales

June 20 Dec 2003 Dec 2002 Dec 2001 Dec 2000
Ford Fairlane1095 (317)*23892001 2306 2779
Holden Statesman1822 (2256) 4363 4347 4971 5566
Ford LTD 72 (8) 146 100 149 297
Holden Caprice532 (239) 1061 611 547 804
* June 2003 in brackets

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