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The cheapest new Ford passenger vehicle costs WHAT?! Price shocks in store as Ford abandons cheap SUVs in Australia in favour of Ranger, Everest and Mustang | Analysis

Once the $30,000 Puma goes, the $54,000 base Everest Ambiente will be the cheapest new Ford passenger vehicle in Australia.

What is the cheapest new Ford passenger car you can buy in Australia today?

Easy. It's the Puma, from $30,840 (all prices are before on-road costs).

But, by mid-year, when the five-seater European small SUV range is discontinued as we know it, that figure will likely nearly double for prospective Blue Oval owners.

To what? Try $53,990 for the Everest Ambiente Bi-Turbo RWD or – if you don't want a five-metre long, 2.3-tonne body-on-frame truck-based SUV – $64,900 for the redesigned Mustang Fastback EcoBoost with the four-cylinder engine expected later on in 2024. The V8 version, by the way, kicks off from $77K.

Of course, the cheapest Ranger XL Single Cab 4x2 cab-chassis starts at $36,880, but that's a two-door, two-seater workhorse, while the four-seater Super Cab 4x2 models now begin well north of $40K once ORCs are factored in.

Now in runout, the Fiesta Trend mild hybrid is the cheapest new Ford passenger car in the UK.

In other words, if you want to put your family in a new Ford passenger vehicle this year, you'll need to either get your skates on and buy an existing Puma or hike up to the $54K-plus base Everest.

To put that in perspective, five years ago, the cheapest new Ford was the $23,490 Focus Ambiente and 10 years ago it was the Fiesta Ambiente from $15,825. These prices work out to roughly $27,450 and $20,100 today, respectively.

If no rear seat is required, the Ranger Single Cab cab-chassis is the cheapest new Ford from nearly ,000.

Now, consider this.

Of the top 10 selling brands of last year, where Ford managed an impressive rise to third place behind Toyota and Mazda due to robust Ranger demand, Ford will most likely have the second-highest entry point for passenger cars and SUVs after the Tesla Model 3 RWD, once current Puma stocks cease.

Here are the opening gambits for each of the top 10, excluding utes and vans:

Kia Picanto Sport: $17,890
MG 3 Core: $19,990 (drive-away)
Hyundai Venue 2WD: $22,500
Mitsubishi ASX GS: $24,490
Toyota Yaris Ascent Sport: $24,800
Mazda 2 G15 Pure: $24,870
Subaru Impreza 2.0L: $31,490
Isuzu MUX LS-M 4x2: $48,900
Ford Everest Ambiente: $53,900
Tesla Model 3 RWD: $61,900

What's going on then?

As his company (slowly) pivots towards electric vehicles (EVs) globally, Ford's global CEO, Jim Farley, recently stated: "We are not going to be playing in the two-row commodity crossover market because... because Ford's tried that in the ICE [internal combustion engine] business and it didn't really work out for us.

"We want to play our hand, our strength, commercial, truck, larger vehicles on the category side."

The cheapest new Ford passenger vehicle is now the Everest Ambiente from around ,000.

That's fair enough when you consider that – in 2023 – the Ranger and its Everest SUV stablemate together accounted for a staggering 90 per cent of the company's entire sales in Australia. And volume jumped 32 per cent over the previous year to boot.

Little wonder, then, that since 2022, Ford has dropped the Fiesta and Focus small car ranges and Escape and Puma SUVs in Australia. But, as it abandons whole swathes of new-vehicle buyers in the process, at least as far as affordable ICE vehicles are concerned, is Ford throwing the baby out with the bathwater in Australia?

In the USA, the Ford Maverick is the cheapest passenger vehicle you can buy, from about $A37,000.

Looking overseas, Ford passenger vehicles seem set to remain considerably cheaper, for the time being, once Puma is gone here.

In the United States, the Maverick – the car-based dual-cab pick-up that's selling up a storm – starts from $US23,400 ($A35,825), while in the United Kingdom the least-expensive Ford is the Fiesta Trend Mild Hybrid from £19,350 ($A37,430) – though the latter is now in run-out in Europe.

Ford will discontinue all internal combustion engine Puma models in Australia this year.

But, soon, Ford Australia will no longer has access to attainable compact vehicles, as its volume range continues to contract despite the introduction of niche models like the F-150 full-sized truck and Mustang Mach-E.

In fact, the latter, along with the traditional Mustang Fastback and Convertible, will be the only SUV and passenger cars Ford sells in this country after mid-year. And the mooted facelifted Puma Gen-E EV will likely cost well over $50K when it arrives sometime after 2025.

In 2014, the cheapest new Ford passenger car cost under ,000, and that was the Fiesta Ambiente.

For now, though, as it exits the small and medium ICE SUV segments completely, Ford Australia will be playing in little more than just one-third of the total market. Having left the ocean for a lake with the demise of Escape last year, it's now heading for (an admittedly large and ute-shaped) pond, on the S.S. Ranger.

That's all fine for now, with the Ranger lording it as Australia's best-selling vehicle of 2023, and Everest enjoying a 50 per cent leap in registrations.

In 2019, the wildly underrated Focus hatch from under K was the least expensive new Ford passenger car in Australia.

But what will happen to Ford Australia's golden goose when the all-new Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara, Kia 'Tasman', still-unnamed Hyundai ute and any other number of fresh rivals (including from China) hit our streets over the next two years? The competition is only just getting started.

For over a century now in Australia, Ford has been a byword for mainstream, mass-market affordability, but when it costs nearly $60K to put your family in a Blue Oval passenger vehicle, surely red flags ought to be flying.

The Puma's demise as an attainable small SUV has big – you might even say Everest-sized – implications for Ford and its consumer base in Australia.

Ford seems to be gambling on the Ranger maintaining its bestselling status in Australia, sidelining cheaper SUVs like the Puma.
Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC...
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