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Longreach given short shift in youth market push

Department of youth: The Tickford-developed Falcon XR8 ute.

A new model variant and sporty styling are the keys Ford hope will give it a 50 per cent increase in ute market volume and a more youthful audience

16 Jul 2001

FORD Australia appears to be pitching towards a more youthful and city-based market for its new Falcon ute range. It is no real surprise, therefore, that the company has dropped the Longreach name and introduced a model range with a sporty emphasis.

The advertising will also reflect a more dynamic approach, showing a 20-something male (right in the heart of the demographics) taking a wild ride in the desert on a snowboard being towed by his mate in a ute.

The marketing gurus assure us there was no trickery involved, just a brave thrillseeker tackling the flat and dry Lake Gairdner in South Australia. The biggest risk was taken by the agency, which had a replacement vehicle on hand but not a replacement rider.

It is also likely Ford's performance arm Tickford, which already has a hand in the XR models, will produce a more radically bodied version some time in the future which will sell through the T- Series dealerships.

This vehicle will try to steal some of the successful HSV Maloo's market but will not get any more power than that offered by the XR8. Its impact will mostly be cosmetic.

Ford Australia has projected sales of up to 10,000 utes in the next 12 months compared with only 6769 last year and 7311 the year before.

Most of the extra volume is expected to come from the addition of a chassis cab model but Ford is also looking to capitalise on the popularity of utes with young men who want a vehicle with a bit of style as well as being practical.

"The AU ute offers contemporary styling and all the sophistication of a sedan for the private buyer," said Ford Australia president Mr Geoff Polites at the launch this week.

"We believe the new look - particularly the XR and XLS - will attract the young buyer who may not have considered the Falcon ute in the past.

"Buyers no longer have to trade off between genuine load-carrying ability on the one hand and power and comfort on the other. No one else in the market can offer a tonne-toting V8.

"Customers told us they wanted a workhorse but they didn't want to forego the comforts and power of a sedan." About 60 per cent of utes will be sold in the metropolitan area, compared with only 30 per cent for the Ford Courier ute.

The already aggressive styling of the Falcon has been sharpened even further by the new grille and the optional five-spoke alloy wheels have similarly sharp and aggressive lines.

The options list also includes a bold three-inch polished alloy roll bar ($645 including fitting) and a Momo steering wheel ($650).

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