ANOTHER big ute could be on its way to Australia, with Ford hinting its iconic F-150 could soon become a global product.
Speaking to Australian media in Detroit, Ford group vice-president – and president of Asia Pacific – Peter Fleet, said he was keen to replicate the global success the Blue Oval has enjoyed with the Mustang in other model lines, especially in Australia, the largest market for the iconic two-door fastback outside North America.
“...I think Mustang, in the context of Australia, is a terrific example of the success you can have," he said. "When you look at the success of Mustang, what did we do there, we took one of our iconic North American brands and globalised it. There is a lesson there. Those kind of things work.
"I am a big advocate of trying to make more of these iconic brands within the company. If I have any opportunity to bring those vehicles to Australia, I’d be at the front of the queue.
"It's all about scale, and RHD, that's the tricky bit. It's about can you have enough scale to warrant the engineering cost and then which plant do you put it into production."
The F-150 was last sold in Australia in 2007, when Ford converted it to right-hand drive in its Brazilian factory.
If a new model was to make it Down Under, it would join a burgeoning big ute segment currently filled by RAM and the soon-to-arrive HSV Silverado – both, though, are locally fettled right-hand-drive conversions of left-hand-drive market vehicles.
Utes are big business in Australia, with the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux frequently taking out the monthly gong for Australia's most popular car.
However, any return to Australian roads for the Ford F-150 is still years away, with Fleet admitting the business case for factory right-hand-drive will only stack up if implemented when a new-generation model arrives sometime after 2020, the deadline Ford has set itself to add a hybrid-engined version of the large truck to its product line-up.
Ford Australia said the strong-selling truck – almost 90,000 of them found buyers in the US in December alone, making it North America’s best-selling vehicle – was not on the local radar, for now.
“At this stage there are not any plans to bring the F-150 here, and the US does not have any plans to make it in right-hand drive,” spokesman Martin Gunsberg told Wheels.
“We’re doing really well with Ranger at the moment, and that size truck seems to be the one that works really well here.”
One of the key factors that will help a right-hand-drive push for the F-150 is the availability of diesel engines – a powertrain option introduced to the F-150 range at Detroit as part of the truck’s first significant makeover since it launched in the US in 2015.
“Yes, the availability of diesel in F-150 would make a discussion about a vehicle that could be sold in RHD markets a less difficult conversation, but it’s still a very challenging conversation,” Fleet said. “And there are lots of markets that would love to have F-150.
Scale was one of the factors behind a decision in 2007 to shelve plans to reintroduce the F-150 here, with one high-ranking Ford source at the time telling Australian media: “We looked at right-hand drive (for the F-150), as we do with all our vehicles, but unfortunately the business case just didn’t add up.”