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Turbo Territory easier to do than a diesel

Image maker: Ford believes a petrol turbo is a better fit for Territory.

Ford's Territory turbo beats an oil-burner option but diesel is still on the agenda

3 Jul 2006

FORD Australia executives are so tired of answering the diesel Territory question that they have come clean: the Territory Turbo was easier, quicker and cheaper to develop than a turbo-diesel version, as well as being more in line with Territory’s sporting brand image.

"The Turbo is far more consistent with Territory’s brand identity," said Ford president Tom Gorman at last week’s Territory Turbo launch.

"Diesel actually moves further away from it. Together, Territory and our 4.0-litre turbo six will kick goals. Turbo will be a huge shot in the arm for the Territory nameplate." Mr Gorman stressed Ford remained committed to developing a diesel-powered Territory, but cautioned the business case would have to stack up before it settled on one of up to five turbo-diesel engines available to it, then allocate sufficient engineering resources to the program.

"We want to do a diesel (Territory) – we’ve been very clear on that," he said.

"Twenty-five per cent of medium SUV is diesel, so there’s incremental (sales) potential there. (But) it’s a matter of getting the right amount of business to offset the investment." Ford Australia Vehicle Line Director Russell Christophers said the choice was simple: Territory Turbo two years after Territory first launched, or Territory diesel much later.

"A diesel would have taken much longer to develop – it would have represented a much larger program, because diesel is a much more difficult proposition and requires a much bigger investment to develop," he said.

"The turbo (petrol) already exists, so it was easier and therefore quicker to do. Turbo brings not just incremental (sales) volume to Territory, but also a halo effect for the entire nameplate.

"(But) don’t go thinking we don’t want to do diesel for Territory, because we do." Mr Christophers emphasised the release of Territory Turbo was in direct response to customer demand, based on the company’s own "buyer/rejector" survey of Territory shoppers in the first quarter of 2005 – six months after Territory was released.

He said the market research revealed that customers wanted, in order of priority: better fuel economy without performance loss, a turbocharged (not V8) performance derivative, under-stated luxury-sports model positioning, and diesel – among a host of other desires.

Mr Christophers said that, along with this year’s stricter exhaust emissions regulations, the market research was the main driver of last October’s SX Territory upgrade, which introduced the six-speed ZF auto as standard on AWD models and reduced fuel consumption by between 5.2 and 6.8 per cent despite lifting performance from 182kW/380Nm to 190kW/383Nm.

He also said the Territory Turbo addressed the second and third most popular customer requests.

Ford claims model complexity and marketing considerations prevent it from producing a rear-drive Territory Turbo variant, and that an FPV Territory, employing the F6 Typhoon/Tornado’s wild 270kW/550Nm force-fed six, is not on the agenda at this stage.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Australia president Tom Gorman.

So it appears that diesel will almost certainly be the next cab off the rank for Territory – just not in the form desired by most survey rejectors, who, according to Mr Christophers, demanded turbo-diesel power with the likes of high ground-clearance and low-range gearing.

Although Ford continues to look at expanding Territory’s off-road accessory range, it is also known to have tested several oil-burning engines from around the Ford world, including the 153kW/435Nm 2.7-litre twin-turbo diesel V6 that was launched locally last month in Jaguar’s S-Type.

Developed in conjunction with the PSA Peugeot-Citroen group, the same 24-valve variable-geometry turbo/intercooled engine powers both Peugeot’s 407 Coupe (150kW/440Nm) and, in single-turbo guise, Land Rover’s Discovery (140kW/445Nm).

However, apart from a number of F-Series truck engines from the US, two more new FoMoCo diesel engines have entered the Territory mix in recent weeks: a Land Rover-developed 202kW/640Nm 3.6-litre twin-turbo diesel V8 and a 4.4-litre version of the same engine, destined for Ford’s F150 pickup. It seems Ford Oz is nothing if not spoilt for diesel choices.

Ford was recently earmarked $47 million by the Australian government’s Motor Vehicle Producer Research and Development scheme, as part of the Automotive Competitiveness Investment Scheme, which the Blue Oval will use for R&D into diesel power for Territory.

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