Ford is betting on the new Puma and Escape to give its popular Ranger dual-cab ute some much-needed backup in the competitive Australian sales race – but it isn’t giving up on passenger cars just yet.

    The Ranger ute currently accounts for more than two-thirds of Ford sales in Australia, and the Ranger-based Everest is the brand’s second-best selling car.

    Ford Australia’s new president and CEO, Andrew Birkic, pointed to the Ford’s new Toyota RAV4 rival, the Escape, and its Puma little brother as key for the Blue Oval’s plan for the future.

    “Part of a winning portfolio is having a strong Ranger and Everest line-up, but we certainly need to do better in SUVs,” Mr Birkic yesterday told media.

    “That’s why we’re investing in Puma… I’m incredibly excited about Puma, I think it provides us an opportunity to connect with new customers.”

    Mr Birkic said the new Puma and Escape put Ford Australia “in a good space to really push” into popular SUV categories.

    The Puma couldn’t be further removed from the now-defunct EcoSport compact SUV, with a premium look and the promise of a sporty drive. It will go head-to-head with the Toyota C-HR and Volkswagen T-Cross when it arrives, priced from $31,990 drive-away.

    The 2021 Escape represents another big opportunity. The previous-generation car never took hold in one of Australia’s most popular new car segments but the larger, more handsome new model is better equipped to take on the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan X-Trail.

    It will launch with a plug-in hybrid option, while the regular range packs a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with 183kW and 387Nm and either front- or all-wheel drive, making it one of the most powerful models in its class.

    Despite the SUV focus, Ford Australia isn’t planning to kill the mainstream Focus line-up and leave only the Focus ST, as it did with the smaller Fiesta.

    “Focus still plays an important part and whether it’s ST, or whether it’s our Active or ST-Line, we still have a play – and we still think there are customers who want that vehicle,” Mr Birkic said.

    “We’ve got a great name, the vehicle’s been around a while, it’s got good heritage. We’ll continue to offer it.”

    Ford has sold 1475 Focuses in Australia to date in 2020, down from 2733 to the same point in 2019. The range was trimmed earlier this year to only include the ST-Line and Active hatchbacks, and the range-topping Focus ST.

    The Trend and Titanium hatchbacks and ST-Line wagon were killed off, meaning pricing starts at $30,990 before on-road costs – $3200 more than the cheapest Volkswagen Golf with an automatic.

    However, the Focus packs more standard equipment and a sporty ST-Line exterior package as standard.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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