"Slow sales prompt Ford review of long wheelbase luxury car plans
By BRUCE NEWTON 19 July 2004
FORD Australia is determined to fight its way back into the locally manufactured long wheelbase luxury market with Fairlane and LTD, it just hasnít finalised how it is going to do it yet.
Company president Tom Gorman has identified the performance of his LWB models as one of the two main sales problems he faces, the other being the Focus.
While the small car issue can be addressed in the short term with pricing and deals, and next year by the arrival of the second generation Focus, Mr Gorman admits the Fairlane/LTD is a harder nut to crack.
But the company is considering some changes to flow through in 2005.
"Long wheelbase is not a huge volume for us, but it is very important to us," Mr Gorman said.
"I am personally Ė and we are as a company Ė committed to it. We have not done a good job there and we need to fix that Ė and we are working on it.
"Next year you will see some stuff if we are going to do it Ö We havenít pulled the trigger on anything, we are still evaluating at this point. It isnít just pricing Ö because price elasticity isnít as severe here as it is in the small car segment or the light segment."
The AU series Fairlane and LTD were hammered by the W-car based Holden Statesman and Caprice from their release just months apart in 1999, as our chart which traces sales since 2000 shows (below).
The Fairlane and LTD were upgraded with new exterior and interior treatments and much of the BA Falconís mechanical package in July 2003, with a sporty G220 Fairlane V8 model new to the range.
While they drew widespread praise for improved dynamics and sound isolation compared to the AU LWB, the styling similarity to the short wheelbase cars inside and out has played an important role in sales not lifting significantly.
"Weíve done a lot of market research and that (styling) has been raised as one issue but there are some things you can fix and some things you canít, and exterior changes are very difficult in the short term," Mr Gorman said.
"But there are some things we can do and we are looking at all of them. So we are taking that very seriously even though the volume is small. We have got a lot of people working on it at the moment.
"Itís an important part of what we present in the market and I donít think we can exit it.
"I think we have to make it work, and if you donít get on it and talk yourself into it not being important, then you spiral down. If you are not there the other guy is going to make hay in that segment and we have to make sure that we stay competitive there."
June 20 Dec 2003 Dec 2002 Dec 2001 Dec 2000
Ford Fairlane 1095 (317)* 2389 2001 2306 2779
Holden Statesman 1822 (2256) 4363 4347 4971 5566
Ford LTD 72 (8) 146 100 149 297
Holden Caprice 532 (239) 1061 611 547 804
First issue that they need to come to terms with is that the G220 is not sporty, it was a complete hit and miss. I think the problems that they are facing right now stem from a few things, lack of money and lack of decent clinic feedback.
Instead of ditching the cheuffeur they should ditch the G220, ditch the sports/luxury differentiation junk for the Fairlane/LTD (leave that for the SWB line-up) and focus on providing a car that is best in class in both areas.
While they are at it they can ditch the marketing department for their lack of effort in promoting the LTD. They haven't produced one single press release for the car and wonder why they only sold 15 last month...
You don't have to look very hard to see what works to be successful in the LWB market here, just look at the history books to see why the Fairlane/LTD lead its market for so long.
Fairlanes and LTD have been struggling for quiet a while. What they suffer is a lack of purpose. Ford has basically religated the LTD into "your buying what" section. Fairlane is really just outclassed by the Statesman and it sits basically at the bottom of that segment.
The G220 is less sporty than a XT v8, not to mention slower. It doesn't have any features that really say anything. Styling doesn't quiet pull it off.. It doesn't feel as enormous as a statesman or caprice, you don't really get anything special inside, or outside.
Its not a complete basket case, it could be fixed fairly quickly if Ford took the time to listen to people (I would say here more than those iffity market research stuff) and study the flaws. Fairlane and LTD has a lot of flaws.
Its going to get harder for them as well, as the wagon fades away (replaced by the territory) and only the Fairlane Ghia remains on the LWB with essientially no other varients (LTD is hardly a varient).
- More options in powertrain, adding the turbo six and the DOHC V8 would definately help move that heft and make them much more competitive (Caprice has what? 245kw!!), when your paying 70+k for a luxury car, source a better gbox than the regular 4 speed. We would all love to see a extremely limited build of the LTD with a V10.
- Exterior styling that is classy yet, distingishes from regular models a bit more than the current one, perhaps with a unique rear light cluster that doesn't look almost extactly the same etc.
- Interior, well, it has to look better, the G220 goes some of the way, but the Fairmont dash doesn't really gel with the rest of the car, it looks, hmm maybe a bit too technical and futuristic, not luxury enough. Feels a bit small in it compared to Statesman/caprice.
- LTD should be a rolling demo of technology for ford.. Not just a government fleet special. Its not a asperational model..
- Surely some sort of multimedia pack should be standard, Falcon classic gets one.. How about a digital TV tuner for the front screen
-Xenon lights? Even hatchback have these as options these days, leveling active with washer jets
-Voice command? bluetooth? Active cruise control? Rain sensor? Glazed windows? Soft close? LED indicators and brake lights.
-18 or 19" wheels?
-Seat heaters and ventilators?
-heated/cooled cup holders
-electric steering adjustment (hooked into easy in and out like on mercs)
-all controls nicely backlit
-superdooper selectable shocks
-memory functions for passenger seat (what? car only remembers one seat?!)
-Front passenger seat adjustable for rear (maybe on a LTD)..
-Maybe some form of adjustment for the rear seats..
-Boot lid closing
-Real wood in the car, it ain't that hard, just a few bits would had that little extra feel.
and if its possible
-Doors that open enough so I can get into the figgin car
-Doors that are bigger so I can get into the figgin car
-Longer so you get that excessive leg room feel
-More boot space
-larger fuel tank
How about some real special treats for premium customers like lexus, BMW and merc do. Real special days out and special offers properly organised. Better sales service, better after sales service.
Maybe Fords trying to hold them back so that jaguar buyers don't get worried that someone is going to rock up to the golf game with a superior Ford car at half the coin. Well let Jaguar worry about that.
thats more like a car! always liked the luxo end but they are just too damn expensive! luxy end needs to be at the cutting end of technology. go have a look what a 78 LTD had compared to all ford cars of that year. they even had electric seats and climate control....in 78. realistically the luxo end hasnt acheived much in 30 odd years its been around.
__________________ HSV Herpes Simplex Virus GAME OVER!
Ford AU needs to put it's 240T motor and 260 Boss motor in a greater range of cars,
imagine a 240T version of a Fairmont Ghia or Fairlane/LTD even a 260 Boss version how would that be ? There is no reason why they cant put those motors to a greater use.
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