Richards sees flexibility as Performance heart
FPV boss says they must adapt to market trend, writes PAULGOVER
THE future of Ford Performance Vehicles could include everything from hot compacts to limited-edition showroom ticklers. The change in direction is being assessed against the backdrop of falling sales for the flagship Falcon and the failure of the F6 X based on the Territory SUV, which has just been cut from Ford Australia’s showrooms.
Planning a more flexible future is about to shift into top gear at company headquarters in Campbellfield, according to FPV’s British boss, David Richards.
‘‘We have to be flexible under the current circumstances and look to the future and work closely with Ford to adapt the product that we produce to what the market requires,’’ Richards says while watching his Ford Performance Racing team in action at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide.
‘‘I see a strong partnership in the past continuing for some time. It’s just that it’ll be in a different guise in the future and will be more flexible.’’
Richards, who built FPV in Melbourne as an extension of his Prodrive motorsport and special vehicles company in the UK, says the hot Ford shop still has a solid future.
‘‘The fundamentals are not about the individual cars, it’s about the principle of what FPV can deliver to Ford,’’ Richards says.
‘‘What it does is provide a flexible partner. Historically, we have produced a range of performance cars, but who is to say that in the future we couldn’t be adapting cars for other requirements?
‘‘A lot of that is that a large factory like Ford Australia is very efficient at producing volume models, but quite often you do need 1000-off or 2000-off special vehicles that need to be done off the production line.
‘‘And having the ability to do that just next door to Campbellfield has been a great asset over the years.’’
Richards says the situation is the same across the world and has created new opportunities for Prodrive in the UK.
‘‘Recently we did an Alfa Romeo in Europe for the UK, because the feeling was that the product that had been produced for Italy and the rest of Europe didn’t suit British roads.
‘‘And they wanted it tuned for British roads. And it’s been a great success,’’ he says.
‘‘Of course we’ve done other products in the past. The last Focus RS was done by us for Ford.’’ ICHARDS says the workload for specialist companies that can engineer and build smaller-volume cars is only going to increase.
‘‘As the car companies slim down their facilities and focus on really delivering efficiencies into their model ranges, so the place for a business such as FPV — or Prodrive in Europe, for that matter —
Rbecomes even more important and valuable,’’ he notes.
‘‘That’s what we do in Europe more and more for different manufacturers. It is often driven by the sales and marketing teams who look for a particular product for a niche for a particular marketplace.’’ Does Richards see the Falcon as the future of FPV? ‘‘Not necessarily. That’s what its heritage is based on, but I fundamentally believe we have to be flexible.
‘‘If that means leaning towards smaller performance vehicles, the Ford Focus or whatever, then so be it,’’ he says.
‘‘We work very closely with Ford and I’m very confident of our ability to do that.’’