Thai­land com­ing into Fo­cus

Asia is grow­ing in im­por­tance for Ford, writes Stu­art Martin

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

FIRST it was Ranger, now Fi­esta and soon Fo­cus could be float­ing to­wards Aus­tralia from Thai­land. Ford has switched the source of its Fi­esta hatch and new sedan to the shared Ford/Mazda fac­tory in Ray­ong.

But Ford Aus­tralia mar­ket­ing gen­eral man­ager David Katic is coy about spec­u­la­tion over the fu­ture sup­plier of Aus­tralian Fo­cus vari­ants.

‘‘We haven’t said any­thing about Fo­cus and we’re not go­ing to,’’ he says.

But the Blue Oval is build­ing a new $500-mil­lion fac­tory next to its AAT Ray­ong plant to build Fo­cus for the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, which would log­i­cally in­clude Aus­tralia.

Fo­cus mod­els sold in Aus­tralia are now shipped from Pre­to­ria, South Africa, though it was planned to build them at Broad­mead­ows un­til those plans were canned last year. The com­pany re­ceives cost and tax ben­e­fits from bring­ing the Fi­esta into Aus­tralia from Thai­land and would ben­e­fit from a sim­i­lar price break with a Fo­cus sourced from the same re­gion.

Ford is keen to in­crease its small-car slice of the mar­ket, start­ing with cut­ting or­der turn­around times and in­creas­ing sup­ply to get more cars to con­sumers.

‘‘We’re at the stage where our deal­ers can’t ag­gres­sively mar­ket the Fi­esta prod­uct be­cause they haven’t got them.

‘‘They are des­per­ate for more stock be­cause they see peo­ple come through the show­room door ev­ery day look­ing for a car quickly.

The Ford small-car hero, Fi­esta Eco­netic, re­mains a Euro­pean-sourced ve­hi­cle, but is ex­pected to re­ceive some of the up­grades of the Thai-built Fi­esta later this year.

Katic says the fru­gal diesel has made big changes to the Ford im­age and the com­pany is look­ing at ways to ex­pand the Eco­netic.

‘‘We did some re­search just af­ter we launched that car,’’ he says.

‘‘Peo­ple were say­ing that they had no idea Ford had this sort of ca­pa­bil­ity when it comes to green.’’

‘‘We’re look­ing at strong, fuel-sav­ing tech­nolo­gies across the range, how­ever we get there— Eco­netic or some­thing else . . . the Fi­esta has told us there is a strong mar­ket there for us.’’

Ad­van­tages: Thai-built Fi­es­tas mean cost ben­e­fits for Ford.

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