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Ford sticks with optional safety pack on Ute

Sudden impact: Ford's Falcon Ute will not get a five-star rating any time soon.

Ford won't chase five stars for Falcon Ute to match Holden Ute safety rating

14 Sep 2009

FORD has decided not to match the new-found five-star safety of Holden’s Ute, saying that even though Falcon Ute could make the grade, its customers don’t necessarily want it.

Ford Australia president and CEO Marin Burela told a media briefing on Friday that Ford’s research revealed that typical Falcon Ute buyers preferred the current system of option packs for items such as extra airbags.

He said most were satisfied with four-star safety, realising this level was state of the art, including standard features such as ESC and front and side airbags.

“They want the choice,” he said. “But what they don’t want is to have it mandated and have it priced.” Holden is confident its MY10 Ute will gain an Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) five-star rating after the new model goes on sale later this month.

27 center imageLeft: FG Falcon Ute and VE Commodore Ute (bottom) ANCAP crash tests.

All MY10 Holden Utes will feature curtain airbags as standard, in addition to the twin front and front-side airbags previously fitted across the range, along with an electronic stability control (ESC) system comprising a traction control system (TCS), anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and electronic brake assist (EBA).

While Ford Australia’s ute range comes standard with twin front airbags, ABS and EBD, the Falcon’s integrated side head/thorax airbags are optional across the Blue Oval’s ute range, while electronic stability control (ESC, including TCS and EBA) is standard only from XR6 level.

The Holden Ute’s extra equipment comes at a price, with a starting price of $33,490 for the base 3.6-litre model (with automatic transmission standard), compared with the Ford Falcon manual Ute’s $30,695 (plus statutory charges and on-road costs). However, Ford charges $1000 extra for auto, bringing the price differential down to $1731.

Mr Burela said the Falcon Ute could pass the ANCAP five-star testing if Ford included the features currently offered in the safety option pack as standard.

He didn’t rule out such a move, indicating that Ford would keep an eye on buyer take-up of Holden’s Ute to see how the market accepted it.

“If the market then changed its mind and says ‘you know what, we would like you to go out there and do the same the same things’, it is something that we can very quickly and easily do,” he said.

“It is not an issue. The car is designed, the features are available.” Mr Burela said Ford ute customers tended to spend their money on other options rather than incremental airbags “because they don’t see the incremental airbags as being useful to them in how they interact with the vehicle, and how they use the vehicle”.

He said Ford Australia had set the agenda on safety by introducing Australia’s first locally-made five-star ANCAP car, the current FG Falcon.

At that time, Ford Australia chose not to submit its Falcon-based FG ute to a side pole crash test, which would have given it the extra two points required for five-star rating.

Ford Australia communications manager Sinead McAlary told GoAuto that although the inherent design and engineering of the Falcon ute provided customers with similar safety benefits to Falcon sedan customers, neither side airbags nor stability control were standard across the Falcon ute range which would have made the five-star message more difficult to communicate.

“We prefer to keep our safety messages simple and consistent as possible, and a strong four-star result is still very competitive in this segment of the market,” she said in December. “As a result, we decided in this instance not to provide a vehicle for, or pay for, the pole test.”

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