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The Ford Motor Company has embarked on its boldest and most exciting new-model blitz in its 118-year history – but will Ford Australia be left behind or strap in and hold on tight?
From the game-changing and crowd-pleasing F-Series electric pick-up (and eventually an all-new Ranger spin-off) down to electrified SUVs and small cars, they are part of a multi-billion-dollar electrification investment program designed to take on everybody from Toyota to Tesla.
It’s all part of Ford’s “All-in on EVs” strategy announced in February, which says by mid-2026, 100 per cent of its passenger vehicle range in Europe will be zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid (and two years sooner for commercial vehicles).
Volkswagen’s involved (via an exchange of technologies and model-sharing agreements) and there’s a billion-dollar-plus dedicated EV factory being built by Ford in Germany, meaning all its European passenger vehicles and most commercials will be all-electric by 2030. Basically, Ford internationally wants to lead the way.
A similar announcement from Ford in North America might follow soon, as one industry spokesperson told CarsGuide this week that the entire automobile industry is waiting for the Biden administration’s call on vehicle production relating to lower greenhouse gases and emissions mandates.
“What president Biden announces in the coming weeks will shape the industry globally,” they said. “And this will affect us in Australia – and what we import in – profoundly, so everybody’s waiting and seeing what we must do.”
Which leaves Ford Australia at a crossroads.
Does it roll the dice and invest in the importation of these coming exciting EVs, against widespread consumer apathy and insufficient federal government support (bordering on hostile if the Victorian government’s proposed EV tax flies), or deny Australians the advanced and progressive cars, SUVs, pick-ups and trucks that could elevate the brand to the top?
Of course, the current Escape will gain a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) early next year – it was meant to arrive last year but quality issues delayed production in Spain – and that’s a step in the right direction for Ford Australia. But it’s stalling on other key models like the Mustang Mach-E (see below).
The ideal scenario is for Australia to follow most other developed nations in the world and embrace EVs by dramatically increasing governmental assistance with infrastructure and incentivisation.
But the reality is, Ford Australia may not have a choice. Our market volumes are way too small for non-EV alternatives to be specially developed for us like we are some technological backwater, especially as the public appetite for hybrids and EVs is growing daily. Underestimating Australian buyers’ maturity, sophistication and wealth will be to its peril.
Need proof? Toyota is dominating with the hugely successful hybrid versions of the RAV4, Corolla and Camry, not to mention the Yaris Cross is coming on strong, the all-new Kluger is about to go petrol-electric from June and the Corolla Cross for 2022 will be the best-selling Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai Kona and MG ZS’ worst nightmare. And – having already certified the Mirai for local sale – it’s pushing for hydrogen infrastructure (along with Hyundai) for the mainstream fuel-cell vehicles coming in the 2030s and beyond.
With all this in mind, here’s how Ford Australia’s model line-up strategy could shape up over the next five years.
Last year, one of the oldest pick-up trucks on sale was the best-selling 4x4 in its class, and accounted for 66 per cent of all Ford Australia’s volume. That, of course, is the Ranger, and with the complete redesign waiting in the wings for 2022, the Blue Oval is praying the new one will continue the momentum.
But the 2022 Ranger is a top-hat update of 2011’s Australian-designed and engineered T6, and its shelf life is thought to only last until 2027/2028. After that, the Americans are taking back their medium-sized pick-up, dovetailing development with the next all-new F-150 and F-250, on a new scalable truck architecture currently cooking away in Detroit.
Bad news for Australia’s final-ever indigenous vehicle and the team in Broadmeadows, but encouraging news for F-Series truck fans, because their engineering components and parts commonalities suggest factory right-hand-drive F-150s and F-250s might finally come true again, after decades of missing out. Broncos too.
Now in its 14th generation, the latest big Ford trucks were only unveiled in mid-2020 as MY21 models, with restyled aluminium panels, interiors and a new Sync4 multimedia system, among other changes. Along with several V6s and V8 options, there’s also a petrol-electric hybrid called PowerBoost. Will these eventually filter down to Ranger?
But the most startling will be 2022’s F-150 Electric, with dual electric motors –including one on the rear axle – and an independent coil-sprung rear suspension set-up. Ford says it will be the most powerful of all the F-150s on sale in America, and has demonstrated that with prototypes pulling locomotive carriages.
As revealed several weeks ago, Ford is well advanced with its redesigned version of Volkswagen’s ID.4, the all-electric high-riding crossover wagon using the latter’s MEB modular electric drive matrix architecture.
The glamour may be with the North American product (F-Series, Ranger, Bronco and Mustang), but this unnamed, Toyota RAV4-sized medium SUV will compete in what is now the family-car heartland of Australia. Once upon a time it was big sedans like the Ford Falcon; now it’s time for Ford to lead the way with this.
Set for production at Ford’s new billion-dollar EV facility in Cologne (Germany), the mid-sized EV SUV will offer over 500km of range and powerful motors (based on the award-winning ID.4’s 109kW to 225kW specifications).
With Ford stating back in February that it is considering adding a second vehicle line to its Cologne EV plant, rumours persist that the company’s EV-technology agreement with Volkswagen will also result in the ‘MEB-Lite’ cost-effective C-segment hatch and related, Mazda CX-30-style raised crossover.
Both are expected by 2025, to respectively supplement the Focus and slip underneath the larger Escape SUV. This may also lead to the development of a Fiesta B-segment hatch and its related Puma B-SUV replacements, as Ford vows to remain relevant with affordable motoring solutions.
Smaller motors and batteries (of around 45kWh and offering in excess of 300km of range) should help keep these compact Ford (and related Volkswagen) EVs attainable.
Ford unveiled the Mustang Mach-E in late 2019, and it’s garnering rave reviews in North America and Europe, plus strong initial customer demand, but where does Australia fit in?
Currently, it’s a no-comment from Ford, but as it’s already available in right-hand-drive for the UK market, it might be time to bring the Tesla Model Y-rivalling, high-performance (0-100km/h is 3.7 seconds on some grades), long-range EV-brand halo Down Under, and pronto.
The Mustang Mach-E is built on the GE1 EV platform – a development of the C2 architecture underpinning the current Focus and Escape/Escape PHEV, as well as the new Bronco Sport (note the suffix, as non-Sport Broncos are based on the 2022 Ranger pick-up), Maverick car-derived dual-cab ute and coming Evos (unveiled this month as a China-market-only high-riding medium crossover liftback-coupe).
A variation of the latter is expected to replace the European Mondeo next year, is hybrid and EV compatible thanks to C2/GE1 platform… and would make a seriously on-brand opponent to rivals like the Subaru Outback and RAV4 Hybrid.
Finally, with the Transit van already offering electric versions in Europe and the Volkswagen Caddy-based Transit Connect reportedly going the same way when that surfaces next year, the company can lead the way in the commercial market as well.
It is clear Ford Australia can leverage exactly the sort of vehicles consumers want or need – even if they don’t quite know it right now. Ignoring electrification should no longer be an option, especially when the coming portfolio is as progressive and exciting as this.
Backed by iconic sub-brands like F-150, Bronco, Mustang and Transit, how can Ford lose?