New Territory for Ford's boss
By Ian Porter
Ford Australia has been through a lean period since 1999 but newly appointed president Tom Gorman reckons he is the luckiest man on the planet.
"I could not think of a better place to be," he said last week, citing the booming car market, a strong company and an "outstanding" team of executives around him.
The strength he sees in the company, however, is not about earnings -- not yet, anyway -- but product plans.
"It's the night before Christmas and we are all sitting around the tree waiting for Santa," was the way he described Ford Australia's position.
And the present that Santa is going to bring in July is the new Ford Territory, the company's first home-grown cross-over vehicle, a high-standing sports wagon that will start at less than $39,000 and tackle market-dominating imports in two- and four-wheel drive.
A lot is riding on the Territory apart from the $500 million Ford Australia has poured into it.
Ford's market share declined steadily from 1995 to 2002 before recovering to a still modest 13.9 percent in 2003 with the release of the current BA model Falcon.
"Our share is not where we would like it to be," Gorman (pictured) said. "I am very focused on (it) and I want more than my fair share.
"We are going to get a big up-tick when the Territory comes along."
He believes a radical 24-hour test-drive program starting this month will get the Territory off to a flying start, giving potential customers a whole day to get to know the vehicle.
He believes its car-like driving characteristics outstrip the competition, and that potential buyers should be given the time to discover both this and the versatility of the interior design.
From later this month, Ford will be rolling out 300 Territories -- worth at least $12 million -- to dealers across the country to make the all-day test drives possible.
The Territory is the company's best bet to grab a big slice of the booming sports utility market and, importantly, make up for the gradual decline in the large-car market, where the Falcon and Commodore rule the roost.
"This time next year, or even six months down the road, we should see a lot of positive movement," Gorman said.
But he is not a "blind slave" to market share.
"Profitable share growth is what we are trying to accomplish," he said.
He will be working on incremental growth in "every single metric" used to run the business.
American Gorman is in a unique position to achieve that as he has worked in many different parts, and disciplines, with the Ford group.
He has controlled a stamping plant in the US, been director of finance for Ford France, run the North American fleet business, which handles 800,000 new vehicles a year and 1.2 million used, and was most recently general sales manager of the Ford-brand division, which sells 3 million cars and trucks a year.