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New Ford Territory set to power diesel to the top

Diesel domination: The new TDCi Territory will further increase diesel sales in its segment, with Ford predicting at least one in two medium SUV's sold in 2011 will be diesel.

Ford predicts diesel domination of medium SUVs as customers make the switch

11 Mar 2011

FORD predicts that by the end of this year, at least one in every two medium SUVs bought in Australian showrooms will be powered by a diesel engine, up from the current 40 per cent.

The advent of diesel power in Ford’s locally made Territory and the arrival of an improved 2.2-litre diesel engine option in Holden’s facelifted Captiva 7 this month will help to drive this potential growth in diesel’s share of the medium SUV segment – Australia’s second-biggest contributor to SUV sales behind the fast-growing compact SUV category.

The Territory, which gets an optional 140kW 2.7-litre variable-turbo V6 diesel from Ford of Europe when the SZ model is launched in May, joins a growing list of medium SUVs in the diesel club that was founded by stalwarts such as the Toyota Prado and Mitsubishi Pajero.

Ford vehicle line director for Falcon and Territory, Russell Christophers, said this week that he expected diesel variants to comprise more than half of all SZ Territory sales.

He said that while some of those diesel sales would be at the expense of petrol-engine volume, the new powertrain would add incremental sales, although he declined to give more exact estimates at this week’s technical briefing on the new model.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Territory TDCi, Holden Captiva 7, Toyota Kluger.

Mr Christophers said the current percentage of diesel sales in the medium segment was about 40 per cent, but that would rise by the end of the year to at least 50 per cent.

The percentage of diesel sales across the overall SUV market in Australia is about 33 per cent so far this year, but that is skewed by the lower uptake of diesel in the compact SUV segment that is still dominated by petrol-only models such as the RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander and Honda CR-V.

Just five years ago, the diesel share of the overall SUV market was 20 per cent, with most of that being driven by the traditional rugged ladder-chassis 4x4s such as the Toyota LandCruiser, Nissan Patrol, Nissan Pathfinder, Mitsubishi Challenger, Prado and Pajero.

The advent of a fresh wave of quieter, more powerful diesel engines in South Korean and German models such as the new-generation Hyundai Santa Fe and ix35, Kia Sportage and Sorrento, and Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as Japanese models such as Subaru’s top-selling Forester, its stablemate, the Outback, and Nissan’s X-Trail, have helped to drive up diesel sales.

Mr Christophers said Territory, until now available only with the 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine, had been hampered by a lack of a diesel, forcing Ford to compete in just 60 per cent of the medium SUV market.

He said the arrival of the new engine would allow the company to pursue sales in 100 per cent of the category.

As well, a more fuel-efficient petrol engine, coupled with a new six-speed automatic transmission in place of the clunky four-speed auto, would boost attractiveness of the petrol variant.

Since it was launched in 2004, Territory’s petrol fuel consumption has been a bone of contention with potential customers.

Even in the more fuel-efficient rear-wheel-drive version, the SX Territory guzzled 13.1 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

Ford says it has chipped away at that problem, cutting consumption to 12.2L/100km in the SY Territory and then 11.6L/100km in the SY MkII.

With petrol consumption going down to 10.6L/100km in the new SZ Territory, the total improvement since 2004 has been 19.1 per cent.

If the fuel consumption of the new 2.7-litre diesel variant with its six-speed auto transmission is compared with the original SX petrol vehicle’s thirst, it reveals a 37.4 per cent improvement in rear-wheel drive models and a 34.8 per cent improvement in all-wheel drive variants.

So far this year, Territory is the fourth best-selling medium SUV, behind the evergreen segment leader, the Prado, second-placed Toyota Kluger and Holden Captiva 7.

Last month, the run-out Territory slipped up to third place, but that probably reflects the lull in Captiva sales before the arrival of the facelifted model in mid March.

The phoney war will stop in May when the new Territory and refreshed Captiva, both with diesel firepower, go head to head.

Caught in the crossfire will be Toyota’s Kluger, still with no diesel powertrain in sight.

Toyota’s new Prado-based FJ Cruiser will also join the fray this month, although that is expected to be only a niche model, selling 900 units this year. Like Kluger, it will not offer a diesel option.

The battle is expected to lift medium SUV sales from their current lull, down 7.1 per cent in the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year.

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