Ford Australia is on track for an improved result in calendar 2002 and will come close to turning a profit after two years of losses, Reuters reported.

Reuters said the ‘Down Under’ Ford operation reported a $A5.5 million ($US3.0 million) after-tax loss in 2001, improving on a A$16.1 million loss in 2000.

”I would think we would be better than last year and we will be close to a profit,” Ford Australia president Geoff Polites told Reuters.

Polites said the final result would depend on factors including production levels over the next few months, Reuters said.

“We have pretty well maximum overtime scheduled between now and the end of the year,” Polites told Reuters, adding: “There are no excuses in 2003. I would expect to have a better year next year and be significantly more profitable.”

Ford Australia is seeking an improved performance from the release of a new Falcon range and last year announced it would spend around $A500 million on a new vehicle line which it will launch in 2004, Reuters said.

Australian sources say that line will be a Falcon-based ‘crossover’ sports utility type of vehicle with four-wheel drive.

Polites told Reuters that Australia’s four car makers – Ford, General Motors Holden, Toyota and Mitsubishi – have seen their share of the domestic market fall from 51% in 1993 to an expected 30% this year, although their volumes have remained about the same as the total market has increased.

Ford’s three rivals all export to offset a lack of domestic market expansion opportunities.

Holden ships right hand drive Commodores to New Zealand while left-hand Chevrolet-badged versions go to the Middle East and South America. The GM arm is also about to start sending Vauxhall-badged Monaro sports coupes to the UK and will build a Pontiac version for the USA from 2003.

Toyota ships its right hand drive Camry to New Zealand and South Adrica, the Avalon to New Zealand and left hand drive Camrys to the Middle East while Mitsubishi builds versions of its Magna for the USA (where it is sold as the Diamante) and Middle East. Ford, in contrast, ships only right hand drive Falcons to New Zealand, South Africa and some small South Pacific markets.

“We have got a different plan,” Polites told Reuters this week. “Our view is that we can grab a greater share of the domestic market by doing something different, so we are introducing a new product.”