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Focus ‘doing its job’, despite sales decline: Ford

Up and down: Ford's Focus fought back in April, but still is lagging behind rivals in the boom small-car segment.

Ford chief defends Focus sales performance in Australia’s biggest market segment

7 May 2010

FORD Australia says it believes its Focus small car is “doing its job” in the marketplace, despite sales falling 25 per cent in 2010 year to date – after plunging almost 30 per cent in 2009 – in the highest-volume segment of the booming new-vehicle market.

President Marin Burela said this week that the company – Australia’s number-three – recently repositioned the Focus and achieved a “stellar” sales improvement in the past couple of months.

According to VFACTS figures released this week, Ford sold 1025 units of the small-car series in April, representing an 84 per cent climb over April 2009, but for the first four months of trading the Focus is 25.2 per cent down overall compared to the same period last year.

At the end of the first quarter of 2010, Focus was down 41.9 per cent YTD and in March it fell 44.6 per cent.

After four months, it holds just 4.2 per cent share of the flourishing small-car segment with total volume of 3150 units, well down on the market leaders.

By comparison, Mazda has sold 13,254 Mazda3s (up 16.1 per cent for a 17.5% share), Toyota has achieved 12,137 Corolla sales (up 11.1 per cent for a 16.0% share) and Hyundai has racked up 11,203 sales of its i30 (up 115.3 per cent for a 14.8 per cent share).

With the small-car segment as a whole up 19.7 per cent YTD, the Focus is back in ninth place, behind the Holden Cruze, Mitsubishi Lancer, Volkswagen Golf, Subaru Impreza and Honda Civic.

27 center imageLeft: Ford EcoBoost engine. Below: Ford Falcon range.

Last year, Ford held a 5.4 per cent share of the small-car market with Focus, selling just more than 11,000 units – down 29 per cent on 2008.

“We’re looking forward, obviously, to the new Focus when we move into that vehicle (in 2012), but the existing Focus is doing its job,” Mr Burela said. “The strategy for Focus is to continue to grow its appeal, its share and its value in the eyes of the customers.

“We do not hide behind the fact that the C-segment is a large segment in Australia. That reinforces our resolve that says we will be a major player in the C-segment. We are taking product actions as we speak, and those results are coming through.”

Mr Burela said the April result for Focus represented “some very exciting growth” but added that “at the same time, our business is not just the C-segment – it is all of the segments that we compete in”.

“Our objective has been to complement the vehicles within the segments and to ensure that we have a holistic and a very viable portfolio of products for the Australian consumer,” he said.

“Look at our sales, guys. Since the beginning of this year – January, February, March and April – they have grown in absolute terms month over month.”

Notwithstanding its 8.4 per cent rise in overall sales this year, Ford’s market share has fallen from 10 per cent to 9.1 per cent YTD.

“Share is not something that I have been concerned about at all,” Mr Burela said. “Our objective, and the way we set our plan – and we’re ahead of plan – is to meet our sales volume objectives, which we have done and exceeded.”

Mr Burela said Ford still planned to grow its market share in 2010 and was certain the company would finish above the 10.3 per cent it recorded last year.

“We will grow our share in 2010. That’s our plan. We’re working to the plan. We’re delivering the absolutes. And we’re doing it profitably,” he said.

“That is the key here. There’s no point in growing share ... if you’re losing money. We are doing it on the back of making profits.”

Mr Burela, who is now firm in his belief that the Australian new-vehicle market will reach one million units in 2010 (“we think the industry will be a million-plus this year”), pointed to the strong sales performance of the company’s Fiesta light car, its 4x4 Ranger utility and the Australian-built Falcon.

He said Falcon in particular was enjoying its highest share in the large-car segment for “years and years” after claiming a 37.4 per cent share in April.

This was still behind Commodore, which claimed a 42.8 per slice of the segment last month, but Falcon is narrowing the gap with sales up 22.6 per cent YTD while Commodore is up 10.4 per cent.

In overall sales terms, Commodore’s 14,529 sales YTD place it around 4500 units clear of Falcon.

“We have focused on the vehicle mix, with an enormous amount of detail, and if you look at our portfolio you can clearly see that there has been growth and change right across the broader spectrum,” Mr Burela said.

“So we’re in a good place. We’re going to get through 2010 – we will have a very solid year, we will have growth in sales, we will have growth in production, (and) I’m confident that we can build on the profits of 2009.

“But more than that, when go into 2011, and we bring to market our new product offerings – the EcoBoost four-cylinder Falcon, the turbocharged diesel in Territory, when we deliver the liquid injection gas (LPG) across the Falcon range – I think you’ll start to see another side of Ford Motor Company building on the momentum of 2010.”

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