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Geoff Polites reveals plans to push Ford's cross-over overseas

19 Jun 2002

FORD Australia is touting its forthcoming E265 cross-over vehicle to export markets.

The move was confirmed by company president Geoff Polites last week and is a significant shift from previous public statements dismissing the possibility of export opportunities for local Ford product.

Mr Polites positioned his comments in the context of the Australian car industry's ongoing industrial disputes, saying possible export opportunities to other Ford divisions were being damaged as a result.

"We don't even have the remote beginnings of a program, but we are saying this is a really great product (E265) that somebody in the corporation ought to have," Mr Polites said.

"But right now we haven't got anybody in the corporation as a potential customer, but every time we raise our head these sorts of things (industrial disputes) don't help.

"We've always said we would like a program. There isn't one but that's not to say you're not looking for opportunities. Like everybody, we are always looking for an opportunity.

"And from where we are, or from where anybody is, you need a champion to give you an opportunity, and it's very hard to find champions in the current environment." Mr Polites announced E265 was "go" last November, confirming a 2004 on-sale date and a $500 million investment in the program.

In March at the Melbourne motor show Ford revealed the seven-seat R7 four-wheel drive wagon (pictured above), which was considered a strong lead on its plans for E265.

Mr Polites has always stressed the success or failure of E265 did not depend on export success, saying it was calculated to make money on purely domestic sales. Figures issued at last November's announcement said E265 production was targeted to reach 32,000 by 2007.

One potential complication for Ford Australia's export plans is the Crosstrainer cross-over wagon being developed in the US, which on the current limited evidence appears similar in size and concept to the Australian vehicle.

Its production could limit E265 export suitability to right-hand drive markets only. The Middle East, for instance, is a left-hand drive market, as is mainland Europe.

Ford is the only Australian manufacturer that does not have a significant export program, sending only a handful of Falcons to the likes of New Zealand and South Africa.

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