It's been a good week for Ford Australia, with the highly-anticipated new-generation Ranger finally arriving in showrooms. It received positive critical response and the company has 17,000 pre-orders to fill.
The company claims it has approximately 10,000 vehicles set to be delivered in the next two months. But what happens after that? While Ford Australia is optimistic that supply will remain steady, the reality is there are no guarantees in the current environment. The world has been in the grip of a global supply chain crisis for more than two years and no-one can say with any certainty when it will be resolved.
The problem for Ford is one bad month for the Ranger would be very bad news, and anything longer than that would become potentially catastrophic. Why? Because without the Ranger and its Everest spin-off, Ford Australia would become a minnow.
The Ranger and Everest duo make up a staggering 86 per cent of all Fords sold in this country, so without them the company would have sold just 3866 vehicles in the first six months of 2022. That would put it behind the likes of relative newcomers GWM and LDV, and by a significant margin with those two Chinese brands selling 8557 and 7173 respectively. Even the much-maligned Honda, with its dramatically reduced and more expensive range would have managed to out-sell Ford, with 7621 vehicles moved between January and June.
Or to put it in a different context, if you remove the HiLux and Fortuner sales from Toyota's sales numbers for the first six months of this year the Japanese brand has still sold 86,723 new vehicles.
This isn't a new revelation though, we wrote in December of 2020 that Ford was very reliant on the Ranger and needed to find a way to make the rest of its range more appealing. At the time we made the point that the then-new Escape and Pumasmall SUVs would be critical for Ford Australia.
Without the Ranger and its Everest spin-off, Ford Australia would become a minnow.
They were all-new models, with the latest and greatest styling, technology and powertrains the brand offered, and they were entering segments with big sales potential. Unfortunately, both models have been badly impacted by the global supply chain problems, but even without that it seems like neither have won over the Australian market.
Sales of the Puma in the first sixth months of 2022 amount to just 1045 vehicles sold, which makes it Ford's best-selling model that's not a Ranger or Everest. However, that also makes it the third-worst selling light SUV, accounting for a tiny 3.9 per cent market share, well behind the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Kia Stonic and Toyota Yaris Cross. Notably, both the Kia and Toyota are newer models than the Ford, so despite having less time to find their place in the market they have convincingly outperformed the Puma.
The numbers don't look any better for the Escape, which has recorded only 932 sales in the first half of 2022. That's exactly 19,441 less sales than Toyota managed with the RAV4 in the same period.
Sales of the Puma in the first sixth months of 2022 amount to just 1045 vehicles sold, which makes it Ford’s best-selling model that’s not a Ranger or Everest.
In fairness to Ford, both of these models have been severely supply constrained from Europe, as Ford Australia president, Andrew Birkic admitted at the recent Ranger launch.
"Escape, a very strong entrant… but unfortunately due to something that's bigger than us - the global pandemic and the chip crisis - they're sourced out of Europe and that's a decision the corporation makes."
That may be so, but given the very low numbers put up by both its hard to believe either would become top sellers even if supply increased significantly and rapidly. Indeed, the problem for Ford Australia is that because supply is constrained, demand is reduced which only makes it harder for the local company to source more supply from Europe (with demand consistently higher in the right-hand drive UK market).
At present it's understood that the waitlist for both Puma and Escape extends until the end of the year, approximately five-to-six months, while those who want an Escape PHEV will need to wait until early 2023 (January or even February) for supply to arrive.
With the Fiesta and Focus reduced to just their performance variants, they have become niche models and cannot be expected to add notable volume to Ford's sales tally. Instead, the brand is looking for its other commercial vehicle - the Transit - to help play a major supporting role to the Ranger.
The Escape is one of the worst performers in the mid-size SUV segment.
According to Mr Brikic, there are plenty of sales to be had for the Transit if the local operation can secure more supply. The current wait time for the van is early in 2023.
"Transit is probably the one we have pretty strong orders from fleets that we'd just love to meet but we just can't get them right now," he said.
The other hope for Ford Australia is the next-generation Mustang, which is expected to be revealed globally sometime in early 2023 but there's no clarity of when it will reach local showrooms. The executives will cite its success as the ‘best-selling sports car' in its class, but the fact remains the sports car segment is relatively small and tends to be cyclical, so relying on it as a ‘volume seller' is worrying.
Add to that Mustang sales are down more than 57 per cent in what is now its seventh year on sale in Australia. Despite no clear timeframe on when it will be replaced it's unlikely to enjoy a sales resurgence as would-be buyers will likely wait for the incoming new model, further exacerbating Ford Australia's short-term troubles.
Asked if there was more pressure on the Ranger, given its role as the backbone of Ford Australia, Mr Birkic was understandably bullish.
"I think we're in a good position because we've got an amazing truck," he said.
He added: "If you can get sufficient supply, we're confident based on pre-orders, the write-ups we've been getting, dealer feedback that have driven the vehicle at the proving ground, we've got a pretty strong play in the market."
The key word in that last quote is ‘if'. That's because, if Ford Australia has any trouble with the incoming Ranger and Everest - particularly its supply - there is very limited support from the rest of the range.