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Ford Territory: Planning the road ahead

Priorities: Diesel is a high priority for Territory, but so are performance and off-road ability.

Ford Australia undertakes study to determine future direction for Territory

23 Nov 2004

FORD Australia will undertake its most extensive market research program since Territory’s development process began to assess the future direction of the ultra-successful SUV.

Dubbed the Territory buyer/rejector study by president Tom Gorman and to be conducted in the first quarter of next year, the research will heavily influence the direction in which Ford heads with Territory.

"One of the things we’re going to do in the first quarter of next year is a complete buyer/rejector study so we’ll have a better idea of where Territory buyers are coming from and going,” Mr Gorman said last week.

"The information we have now is anecdotal, stuff that we get from financing contracts and trade-ins and stuff like that. We’ve sold 10,000 and you’ve got to have a legitimate universe of customers to talk to and I think we’re there.

"To be honest, though, the vehicle is going very well so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The art is not to wait too long – you have to keep it fresh with new design and technology."According to Mr Gorman, that technology could include anything from diesel, high-performance and hybrid variants, to a hard-core off-road version – but they must be financially viable for Ford.

"We had a rough idea that if we had different powertrains we might be able to attract a different kind of buyer, but at the moment we don’t really understand the reasons people are rejecting Territory – fortunately not many are," he said.

"Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to do everything. Given we’re going to have to invest to do anything differently, where do we think the largest incremental volume is going to rest? Do we invest in wagon or long-wheelbase or new generation Territory or diesel for Territory or performance for Territory?" he said.

Mr Gorman said diesel was a high priority for Territory, but so was performance and off-road ability.

It is also known, from GoAuto sources, that prototypes are running around with the F6 engine mated to an all-new automatic transmission.

As for the burning issue of fuel consumption, Mr Gorman denied this was a problem for the SUV.

"In terms of the work that you would do like diesel and all of that stuff, we were thinking about diesel since before Territory was even launched, so it’s just a matter now of if we need to do it how quickly can we get to market with it?"Yes, it (fuel economy) is an issue but it’s quite good for an SUV so I think what happens is that some people who’ve stepped out of a sedan and moved in to this vehicle didn’t fully understand what the fuel economy difference was," he said.

Mr Gorman said Ford would sell its 10,000th example in November after almost six months on sale, during which time the top-shelf Ghia variant has attracted 30 per cent of sales and rear-drive now comprises 55 per cent of sales.

But while Mr Gorman stressed that the high proportion of private buyers at 50 per cent (compared to Falcon’s 25-30 per cent) proved Territory had brought new customers to Ford, he admitted some Territory sales had come from Falcon.

"There’s no question that it is substitutional to some degree. If we didn’t have Territory we would have sold more Falcons, there’s no question about it," he said.

"But a little bit of that has to do with how we’ve been focusing our dealers.

"We had talked about 25,000 Territory (sales per annum) and we’re clearly at that run rate now pretty easily on a domestic basis.

"The mix is very strong for us, we’re not price discounting at all and we’re managing this brand quite well, so we feel very good about where we are."

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