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Falcon wagon defends its territory

Sales holding up: The traditional Falcon wagon is selling well, despite the arrival of the Ford Territory.

The Falcon wagon is defying the doomsayers and appears to have a future

20 Dec 2004

THE traditional Falcon station wagon appears set to have an ongoing future at Ford despite the arrival of the Territory cross-over.

Prior to Territory’s mid-2004 launch, Ford Australia executives as high as Geoff Polites had mulled over the fate of the Falcon wagon, suggesting Territory might cannibalise its sales too much and make it uneconomic to build.

But last week Ford Australia president Tom Gorman revealed that the Falcon had stood up surprisingly well in the face of Territory, continuing to be the fleet ‘tool of trade’ choice.

“I guess we have been a little bit surprised, we thought Territory would translate a little better to fleet buyers,” Mr Gorman said.

“I think we thought that there would be opportunities for commercial buyers to move into Territory and that really hasn’t happened.” Ford isn’t concerned about the lack of fleet penetration for Territory, as it is hitting its target of about 2000 sales per month here, as well as selling a couple of hundred per month in New Zealand. An export deal to South Africa also appears on the cards.

Ford had sold 10,389 wagons to the end of November 2004, according to VFACTS, down from 11,841 YTD in 2003. The Holden Commodore remains the clear segment leader, selling 15,465 so far in 2004, compared to 16,892 in the same period last year.

From next year, when Mitsubishi pulls the plug on the Magna, only Ford and Holden will still be offering locally manufactured wagons.

Ford’s lessons in regard to traditional wagon versus cross-over will be taken onboard at Holden, because it has a strong presence in the ‘tool of trade’ market and has been debating how to retain that and introduce locally manufactured vehicles of a more cross-over style when the VE Commodore arrives.

“The wagon still really fulfils a very good need,” said Mr Gorman. “It is really good value, it is highly valued in terms of cost of ownership and I think that works really well for the fleet buyer, so it continues to be a great product for them.

“Perhaps we were a little bit niaive thinking they would jump into Territorys and it hasn’t worked that way, and it hasn’t had to.” Mr Gorman nominated the price advantage of the wagon over the Territory as an obvious reason it remains a fleet choice. Official retail pricing lists the base model XT Falcon wagon at $36,960, while the entry level TX rear-wheel drive Territory is priced at $38,990.

He also pointed to the amount of interior carrying space in a wagon, which has up to 1254 litres of luggage capacity, while the Territory has 1153 litres.

“These guys have a lot of samples that they pack in the back … and they can just throw the stuff in the back of the wagon and just pull it out pretty quickly,” Mr Gorman said.

“There is also the question of whether they need all the functionality and versatility that Territory gives you versus what they use a wagon for.” But Mr Gorman played down a suggestion that the lack of E-Gas option for Territory was hurting its fleet opportunities, instead saying that overall LPG takeup was actually declining for Falcon.

“I don’t know what is driving that, but the gas buyer is not a huge portion of our portfolio,” he said.

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