Holden’s closure has had some tough years for the Australian car industry, indicating that it is time for even the biggest brands to secure the right model to build a successful future. How hard can it be?
To those operating under the belief that our market was important in the global scheme of things, the big wigs at General Motors made it clear that was not the case. The swift and emotionless manner in which Holden was erased from the Australian automotive landscape made it abundantly clear how precarious any brand is without the right cars.
Holden’s final years saw the brand become an amalgam of anything GM could make into a right-hand drive at the right price, be it Chevrolet, GMC or Opel. This made for an unrelated showroom line-up, as it was a separate line-up composed of several brands forced together under a similar badge.
Read more about the Ford F150
Through this lens, things haven’t looked very bright for Ford in recent years. As I personally write, Ford Australia has been left out in the cold for some of the most exciting new models Ford Head Office has built. This includes the Mustang Mach-E, Bronco, Bronco Sport, Maverick and of course the F-150.
Or at least it was until recently. The decision to convert the F-150 locally is a big deal for Ford Australia in more ways than one. Obviously this will increase volumes, allowing Ford to compete in a market it has never had before, while right-hand drive has the potential to be profitable, despite the complicated process of rebuilding it.
But more than that, the deal shows that Ford Headquarters is willing to do whatever it takes to make the Australian market a success. Unlike GM, Blue Oval sees a long-term future as a volume brand, and has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the right products are available here, even if it requires more work.
The decision to locally re-build the F-150 is unique within the Ford empire, allowing no other market to go to such lengths to obtain a model that would otherwise be unavailable.
After publicly claiming for years that the Ranger was good enough and that the F-150 was no longer needed for our market, Ford Australia’s upper management changed its tune several years ago – probably around the same time as Chevrolet and Ram. Pick-ups started selling like hot cakes. With a six-figure price tag.
However, this change came too late for this latest generation F-150, which was launched in 2020. Given that the F-Series typically has a product cycle of five years, local sales of the F-150 are on the rise and running will be crucial to ensure that the next generation model gets a steering wheel right from the factory. More likely.
Ford Australia has an opportunity to demonstrate to its US owners that the local market prefers larger pick-ups and therefore deserves more consideration in the planning stages.
During the announcement of the new arrangement, Ford Australia CEO Andrew Birkick repeatedly stated that the priority is to ensure that the early V6 EcoBoost-powered F-150s are well built and sold in the expected numbers. However, when asked repeatedly about the potential of other F-150 variants (notably the Raptor and Lightning) as well as other Ford models, he declined to rule it out. While hardly confirming, it certainly leaves the door open for more Australian-led initiatives.
Of course, this highlights the fact that, despite Ford Australia explicitly wanting it, Ford USA refuses to produce the F-150 in right-hand drive, which somewhat fuels the festivities surrounding the deal. reduces.
As I’ve written before, the so-called ‘One Ford’ philosophy of trying to build global rather than market-specific, models has seemingly faded. The fact that the Bronco, a car that began life using Australian-developed, right-hand-drive-capable Ranger T6 underpinnings, isn’t engineered for right-hand drive, reflects a US-centric attitude. What needs to be changed is long term.
Ford Australia has long missed out on flagship models like the Shelby Mustangs, Bronco and Mustang Mach-E, so hopefully this new deal is the start of a new era for the Blue Oval that will allow it to push beyond its current limits .