Richards sees flex­i­bil­ity as Per­for­mance heart

FPV boss says they must adapt to mar­ket trend, writes PAULGOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.’’

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