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FPV: Everything is back on the table

Red-blooded donor: FPV says Territory Turbo makes a great starting point.

New FPV chief confirms the Focus RS and Territory GT are back on the product agenda

18 Jul 2006

NEW Ford Performance Vehicles boss Sak Ryopponen has confirmed that everything from Europe's storming Focus RS hot-hatch to a turbocharged Territory GT is back on the evaluation table for the Blue Oval's performance arm.

Speaking during his first day of interviews since taking over the FPV helm from former managing director David Flint on June 6, Mr Ryopponen said HSV's forthcoming VE Commodore-based range would put the brakes on FPV's record-breaking sales performance so far in 2006 - but that additional models and the donor Falcon's development cycle will drive future FPV sales growth.

"One of the luxuries you have when you come into a new role like this is you can actually explore every opportunity with a fresh view, so every project that might have been on or off the table in the past is back on the table again," he told GoAuto.

"Ford locally and globally has a broad enough range of product that would provide wonderful donor vehicles. It's a question of working through them and seeing whether there's a business case that fits somewhere.

"We'll have a fresh look at them and see what opportunities might be attractive and then work from a numbers perspective."Asked if those opportunities included the rumoured Focus RS or an FPV-tuned Territory Turbo, which could be badged as an XR or even a GT, Mr Ryopponen said: "Of course you'd have to have a look at them but we're also having a fresh look at everything and if there are projects like that that make sense then we'll have a crack at them."Mr Ryopponen confirmed that even if it eventuated in Europe, a turbocharged, all-wheel drive Focus based on Ford's RS-badged world rally car would still need to be modified by FPV. This cost would be magnified by the fact Focus is currently imported via a number of ports around Australia.

"That is an issue because you don't a have a central point of assembly, and that makes the numbers harder to work," he said.

Asked about the prospects of a long-wheelbase Fairlane/LTD-based FPV model, which could pick up where the Tickford-developed AU Fairlane-based TL50 left off in December 2002, Mr Ryopponen's said "never say never". And he was equally non-committal about an FPV-badged Territory.

"The turbo Territory has just been launched and it's a pretty good vehicle, so it'll be a challenge to do something that would be a significant step up from that. If we could find an opportunity to do so something with an FPV DNA then we'd do it, but there is no current plan to do that."

 center imageMr Ryopponen (left) also remained guarded about changes to FPV's core short-wheelbase models, which will be improved via a BF Series II upgrade that was alluded to by Ford president Tom Gorman last month.

"We'll continue to get great product from them and whatever improvements there might be in the donor vehicle will obviously flow through to us. If Tom says there's a surprise I'm sure there will be.

"While we might have some time before the next (new Falcon) model arrives, I guess you'd have to bear in mind that, particularly at BF, we took some significant steps forwards. So really it's the other people who are playing catch-up at this stage and we await with baited breath to see what they've done with the new vehicle.

"But... you know ... activities and things aren't necessarily bound by major new model introductions."Mr Ryopponen said FPV sales, which are 28 per cent up so far in 2006 compared with the first half of 2005, would be impacted by the release of HSV's VE-based range in August.

"There's no question the second half will be a little tougher for us with the activity from our competitors, so our second half sales will be lower than in the first half.

"Next year we'll still be... albeit in our minds with a relatively fresh product line-up ... competing with a brand-new product line and that will make it harder.

"We're in the process of pulling together the final plans for next year and we're sure that those numbers - whatever they are - will provide us with an acceptable return regardless of what the market share might be.

"It's not all about market share - we've got shareholders who want a return and customers to keep happy, and if we can achieve that and get some market share along the way then that's fine."He said experience was the biggest asset he will bring to a post-Flint FPV.

"Given that there's a very enthusiastic but relatively young team in place - I guess I outrank every one of them by about 30 years - so I think experience is the main thing (I bring to FPV), especially in terms of brand management, not only from a national perspective but regionally too.

"A long term brand management strategy is already place and is all working fine, but there may be an opportunity to fine-tune it a little bit from it solid base.

"Sales show nothing is broken. That's the great thing about it: there's nothing that needs urgent attention because it's a very well run organisation with most of the strategies already in place, so I don't think there's any need for sweeping change.

Mr Ryopponen said the 3000 sales mark was "certainly within reach" and would be achieved by "product additions and the product cycle".

Prodrive's Toyota deal not a problem, says FPV

FORD Performance Vehicles managing director Sak Ryopponen is adamant the recent appointment of Prodrive, which owns FPV jointly with Ford Australia, to assemble vehicles under the Toyota Racing Development banner will have no impact on the Blue Oval tuning department's future model plans.

"It (Prodrive's TRD involvement) is actually only an assembly operation," he said. "There is no engineering or product development work involved - it's purely an assembly contract.

"There'll be a factory, cars will come in, they'll take bumpers and bits and pieces off and put new ones on again and that's the extent of their technical involvement.

"Getting a contract like that is consistent with Prodrive's previously stated aim of growing within the region and this is just an extension of doing that.

"If it had been an engineering type contract we wouldn't have been concerned because in today's motor industry it's not unusual to have a supplier working with a number of manufacturers - it happens all over the world. Prodrive is a company with integrity that has a number of clients all over the world."Mr Ryopponen said confidentiality agreements would prevent information exchange between FPV and TRD, which are both now Prodrive clients.

"There are process in place that are very strictly adhered to. Conversely, I can't find out from Prodrive what they might be doing with Toyota or anybody else. I was cheeky enough to ask some questions in that regard but they refused to answer them."

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