Far from turning the other cheek as Holden launches its high-tech new V6 engine in the Commodore, Ford has come out blazing with a great value limited edition model of its mid-range G6 Falcon at an attention-getting drive away $36,490 price.
While Holden has certainly attracted attention from the fleets with the economy claims of its new 3.0-litre V6 Commodore, Ford is for the moment using a value ploy to keep customers from being lured away.
Ford boss Marin Burela says there is plenty happening at Ford, including a fresh wave of younger private Falcon customers. The average age has dropped dramatically from 56 to 45 years, and in just a year or so.
Burela says his customers are telling him they want large cars, which is why Ford is investing $230 million more in the Falcon rather than building the smaller Focus in Australia.
"We say the large car segment will continue to stay at 95,000-100,000 units annually," Burela said, adding that it is appealing because there are just a few main players in the segment.
The arrival of its turbocharged 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine early in 2011 will further strengthen the Falcon's position with fleets that have a policy of buying four cylinder cars. Burela indicates the EcoBoost engine will be very cost effective versus hybrids and sixes. "It will be the most fuel efficient, eco friendly large car in the country," he suggests
Meanwhile, the Limited Edition G6 offers customers a highly specced car offering around $13,000 more value than the standard 195kW 4.0-litre six-cylinder G6. In fact it undercuts the entry level Falcon and Commodore by $3000, signalling a serious intent by Ford to take the fight to Holden based on seriously good value for money.
The Limited Edition G6, effectively a heady mix of G6 and the swisher G6E, catches the eye with 18-inch alloy wheels, colour accent treatments, fog lamp bezels, a rear bumper insert and Limited Edition badge, leather-detailed seat trim, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, iPod and Bluetooth phone integration. More importantly perhaps, side curtain airbags are included.
The Ford Oz boss says the limited edition car is just the start of a serious marketing onslaught using Falcon. "We're testing the water with this car," Burela declared, also hinting at some future model consolidation.
As part of a thrust to push the Falcon positioning further up the totem, Burela says that the entry-level Falcon XT will be built only to order. Ford won't be following the old ethos of "build 'em first; then sell 'em".
He said that when he arrived in Australia to take over, there were "hundreds of new Falcons on grass" waiting to be sold. Not now.
Ford production lines are now struggling to keep up with demand with Territory in short supply
He said demand for Territory was particular strong, with Ford short of stock.
Like Falcon, the mix of the Territory is moving to the up-scale models and the local SUV will kick on again in 2011 when the 2.7-litre diesel, a superseded but still impressive V6 sourced from Jaguar, will become part of the engine choices.