FORD’S all-new Mondeo could gain a performance-honed ST variant down the track, while a hybrid powertrain is also locked in for the latest version of the Spanish-built mid-sizer, according to Ford’s local marketing boss.
The fourth-generation Mondeo launched to the media in Canberra last week after a lengthy two-year delay, with one diesel and two petrol powertrains and three specification levels on offer ahead of its showroom debut in May.
Ford offered the sporty XR5 Turbo version of the previous-generation Mondeo, powered by a 162kW/320Nm Volvo-sourced five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, but it was discontinued in 2010.
The ST moniker adorns both the Fiesta light hatch and the Focus, and is becoming something of a performance sub-brand for Ford globally.
Speaking with GoAuto at the media drive for the Mondeo, Ford Australia general manager of marketing David Katic hinted at the possible development of an ST-badged Mondeo, and said the company’s local arm is keen to add such a model to its line-up, should it get the green light.
“I’d love to do one,” he said. “You can imagine an ST version would look beautiful. Obviously we play our cards close to our chest but we think it is an opportunity for us down the track once we get established in the marketplace, but the car would naturally suit that sort of thing.”
Late last year the Blue Oval announced it would bring its global engineering and racing teams and its performance car development under the Ford Performance banner, and confirmed it would launch 12 new performance vehicles by 2020.
Once the car-maker shuts its Australian manufacturing operation in October 2016, it will lose a number of performance variants, such as the locally built Falcon XR6 Turbo sedan and ute, and the XR8 sedan that has proven so popular that Ford has had to increase production to meet demand.
To make up for a lack of high-powered, rear-drive models from late 2016, Ford will add the Mustang pony car to its line-up from later this year.
Discussing future powertrain options, Mr Katic said the petrol-electric hybrid Mondeo offered in other markets would appear in Australian showrooms – without giving specific timing – and despite Ford Australia previously ruling the hybrid out.
“We will have a hybrid in our future, down the track,” he said. “It’s one of our stories that we think hybrids have a place, and that’s why Ford globally has hybrids, has electric vehicles, but very importantly we think it’s important to deliver high fuel economy in what we call conventional engines, and diesel engines as well.”
Mr Katic pointed out that the Mondeo’s revised 132kW/400Nm Duratorq 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine offers a combined fuel figure of 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the hatch, 0.1L/100km more efficient than the Toyota Camry Hybrid, and added that Ford wanted to provide variety for its buyers.
“We think we will have a range of fuel-efficient options for that car. And that is our goal at Ford is to provide the consumer with that choice, not just be single focussed on a hybrid for example.”
Mr Katic said there was a shift in interest back to wagon body-styles, and suggested that the load-lugging version of the Mondeo, which has been praised for its proportions and striking design, would appeal to private as well as fleet buyers this time around.
“Everyone wants to talk SUVs in the marketplace and of course we have a great range of SUVs. But we are finding that there is that consumer demand, not to the proportion of SUVs, but definitely we get strong consumer feedback, a lot of interest in wagon, and it’s another key reason why we specced it up appropriately to target that retail customer.”
Ford Australia has previously confirmed that it will not source a direct replacement for the large rear-wheel drive Falcon when production ends, leaving the Mondeo as the sole mid-to-large-size passenger offering in its line-up.
However, Mr Katic said Ford would not push the Mondeo as a Falcon replacement as the two models appeal to different buyers.
“We don’t say that Mondeo is going to be a Falcon replacement. We think Falcon has been a tremendous product for us. An incredibly passionate, loyal customer base that we love and we wouldn’t say that Mondeo is your Falcon replacement.
“We sell a rich mix of XR6 Turbos, XR8s, we are trying to build more of them and that is the heartland of Falcon and you have a lot of Falcon buyers who demand that rear-wheel drive experience so we are not for a moment saying Falcon customers come and buy a Mondeo. Obviously we will communicate with them, as we do all our customers, letting them know there is an all-new Mondeo and from a dimension point of view it is not far off.
“But an XR8 buyer is not looking for a front-wheel drive Mondeo. We want to pay respect and homage to Falcon and if those buyers want to buy it, awesome, but we are not looking to transfer them over.”
By Tim Nicholson at GoAuto.com.au
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