Ford Australia confirmed today a new product line-up to take the company forward into a new era of customer focus on products and services.

'It's no news that Ford is moving fast in its drive to become more and more customer driven in every aspect of our business," said Geoff Polites, President Ford Australia. "It's no longer good enough to deliver a good car to the market and then on-sell it to a customer base. We must be customer driven from the top end - to understand what the marketplace wants and then deliver exactly that.

"What we are seeing right now is a change in the marketplace. Change in consumer attitudes, in work patterns and in lifestyles. Customers are looking for new things in their transport solutions."

Mr Polites went on to confirm that the company would be putting its resources heavily behind products such as the new Ford Escape, to be launched in the Australian market early next year.

"There is serious growth in the all-terrain market and Escape will take Ford into one specific area of this growing market for the first time. We have not had a player in the sub-compact segment of this market and it's overdue. Escape should do very well in the Australian market, especially with our commitment to the new 3 litre V6 powertrain, which will give Escape an edge on its competitors. Customers here are looking for a practical vehicle for around town during the week, that will also take the family comfortably and easily into their leisure activities at the weekend. Escape is ideal for this type of lifestyle. It's practical, it's fun, and with the V6 powertrain it's a spirited performer as well."

Mr Polites went on to say that the company had taken a hard look at its current line-up and had taken some dramatic steps to reposition Ford in the marketplace. "With our commitment to the extended SUV market, we've had to revise our forward plans for some other models," he said.

"One of the tough calls has been to step away from Mondeo. The C/D market in which Mondeo competes is in decline. From 10.6% of the passenger industry in 1996, it's dropped to 8.3% in 99 and is currently running at 7.1% for 2000. Furthermore, it's forecast to drop further over the next few years, to around 5% in 2003. So while we continue to support Mondeo in the Australian marketplace, we won't be taking the new model next year.

"We don't want to be devoting resources to a market segment that's in serious decline if there are other more compelling sectors that we can concentrate on - and there are. We need to concentrate on the market areas that are in line with projected customer preferences and changes in the fast-moving global automotive market.

"Laser will be repositioned and early next year you'll see a new 2.0 litre model as part of a revised Laser line-up. There's a lot more to this car than we've fully exploited in this market so we'll be building on its traditional strengths while we move into more sporting variants.

"We've made the decision to delay Focus introduction while we make these other changes. Focus has been introduced to the European and US markets with tremendous success and we remain committed to seeing it here. However, at present the right combination of models, availability and pricing isn't there for us.

"The 3 and 5-door models are sourced from two different plants, and that means double the investment we would otherwise have expected to tool up for changes for the Australian market.

"We'll introduce Focus at a later date when we have the right package for this market, at a price that makes good business sense."