Part of being a car enthusiast in Australia is looking at bigger-volume overseas markets like the USA with envy, as they enjoy particular vehicles not made available to us.
It’s not as though we lack choice – in fact our market is among the most congested in the world in terms of volume divided by competing brands – but some damn entertaining products nevertheless don’t get to call Australia home.
Ford is among the most egregious offenders here.
Business cases need to be made, and clearly our small market isn’t fertile soil. Simply put, sales expectations are insufficient to recoup the investments or opportunity costs inherent to bringing them here.
Here’s how we contextualise this view: It appears this list could expand to include the newly-revealed Bronco family of 4x4s, since Ford Australia remains unable to confirm if or when they’ll make the long trip south from the factory in the US.
Sure, we’ve speculated on the possibility based on Ford’s plans to launch its new Bronco sub-brand in what it defines ‘IMG’ markets, but there’s nothing concrete. For the time being, we see yet another Blue Oval beast that we cannot buy at any foreseeable moment.
Should Ford’s global decision-makers firmly put a line through Australia, it would be a particular shame. Here’s why.
The hardcore Bronco sports independent front suspension, and a solid axle at the rear with coils and five links, plus long-travel Bilstein dampers and a semi-active hydraulic stabiliser bar than can disconnect to maximise articulation for deep ruts.
This specialised layout is based on Ford’s ‘T6’ 4×4 body-on-frame architecture that underpins the Ranger and Everest too. And if you ever drive through the You Yangs to Melbourne’s west, you’ll pass Ford’s proving ground where the mechanicals were honed.
The prospect of not getting access to a vehicle with actual Aussie heritage deep at its quintessentially American core, kind of rankles.
The most obvious competitor to Ford’s reborn Bronco is Jeep’s cash cow, the Wrangler. And guess what: it’s sold here, and is enduringly popular!
That means there’s a template in place showing how a niche, body-on-frame 4×4 with retro design made in the US can be sold here, despite an awful exchange rate, complex logistics, and a low population.
Let’s also take note of how Australia was a big market for the Series Land Rover, which became the original Defender. Or how we’re one of the key markets for the Toyota 70 Series LandCruiser.
Or how the Suzuki Jimny has a 12-month waiting list (I’m smug, because mine is already in the garage). Or our enduring love for Mercedes-Benz’s stratospherically-priced G-Wagen.
Even startup products like the Ineos Grenadier are firmly earmarked for our wide, wild brown land.
When Ford decided to make the current Mustang in right-hand drive from the start of development, it was an attempt to globalise a uniquely American icon.
And guess what: the Pony Car became the world’s top-selling sports vehicle.
I can recall numerous Ford press releases excitedly hailing the Mustang’s blistering success in Germany and the UK, hardly strongholds for Yankee muscle cars. And yes, Australia too, where it’s been the top-selling coupe and convertible since the moment it launched.
Do you reckon that’s helped Ford stand out? Is there value to be found dipping into your legacy? Umm, yes.
The Ranger Raptor’s 2.0-litre diesel hasn’t blown everyone away, but when it comes to out-of-the-box, jump-ready pickups sold in Australia, it’s clearly the class leader.
And the Mustang may have a poor safety rating, but there’s no V8 performance bargain to match it.
Having a proper hardcore 4×4 with the right boxy styling and – hopefully – a safety rating better than the wildly-below-par Wrangler’s, would give Ford an enthusiast lineup few others could match.
What car lover could really disagree with that?
Making a hardcore 4×4 and not selling it in a country with Broome’s beaches, the Kimberley’s ancient canyons, Alice Springs’ red dirt, Tasmania’s rainforests, or the 1800km Canning Stock Route through three deserts and lands rich with Dreamtime tales should be a crime.
Ok, not literally. But I’d equate such a decision to producing a sports car and not selling it in Germany, home of the Nurburgring. What more is there to say!
Ford, if you’re listening: you know what to do. Get it to Australia.