Ford New Zealand is the New Zealand subsidiary of Ford Motor Company. It began in 1936. Since the closure of its assembly plant in Wiri, Auckland in 1997, all of its product offerings are fully imported, from Australia, Japan and increasingly, Europe. Its models have traditionally been the same as those of Ford Australia, with the large Falcon model being as popular locally as it is in Australia.
The company began in 1936 but by 1943 had shifted solely to military work. For World War II, Ford New Zealand produced 10,423 vehicles as well as 5.7 million hand grenades and 1.2 million mortar rounds. Civilian car production resumed in 1946 which was also the year the Fordson tractor was introduced in New Zealand. It was assembled at Lower Hutt. In 1965 a parts depot opened in Auckland, New Zealand and in 1972 a transmission and chassis manufacturing facility at Manukau City. The Wiri assembly plant was also completed in 1972 and began building Falcons the next year. An alloy wheel plant was opened in 1981 at Wiri.
In common with other countries in the Asia Pacific region, Ford New Zealand marketed the Mazda-based Laser and Telstar, which replaced the British Escort and Cortina in the early 1980s. Unlike Australia, however, the Sierra was sold in New Zealand in the 1980s and early 1990s, though generally only available as a wagon.
A wagon version of the Telstar was eventually offered in New Zealand, based on Mazda's GV platform the only country outside Japan where this model was available. It continued to be marketed locally, along with a sedan version called the Telstar Orion, until 1997.
Ford Telstar Wagon
New Zealand, 1997
This sharing of models between Ford and Mazda led to the creation of a joint venture called Vehicle Assemblers of New Zealand (VANZ), in which the Mazda 323 and 626, were assembled alongside the almost identical Ford Laser and Telstar. This continued well into the 1990s, in contrast to Australia, where Mazdas were not assembled locally, and Ford had switched to importing those models from Japan.
However, free-market reforms in New Zealand in the late 1980s saw the lowering import tariffs and the flood of used imports from Japan. Many of these were mechanically identical Mazda Capellas (as the 626 is known in Japan), as well as Ford Telstars and Mondeos. In addition, Australian-built Fords like the Falcon, and its GM rival, the Holden Commodore, could now be imported New Zealand duty-free.
With the demise of local car assembly looking inevitable, VANZ finally closed in 1997 (the Lower Hutt assembly plant having already closed in the reorganisation of 1987-1988) and the alloy wheel plant was sold in 2001. Ford New Zealand was now able to look to Europe for its product line-up, with the Telstar being replaced by the Mondeo, and the Laser by the Escort. However, the Asian economic crisis and unfavourable exchange rate meant that the Escort, and its successor, the Ford Focus, was too expensive, and the Laser was reintroduced in 1999. (The Escort wagon, which had been sold in New Zealand since 1996, was retained until UK production finally ceased in 2001.)
The Ford Focus finally arrived in New Zealand in 2003, with the smaller Fiesta arriving a year later, filling a gap in the market left by the demise of the Kia-sourced Festiva.
One notable difference between Ford New Zealand's product line-ups and that of Ford Australia is the medium sized Mondeo from Europe. Whereas the Mondeo was dropped in Australia in 2001, in New Zealand it is one of Ford's best-selling models.
- Ford New Zealand (http://www.ford.co.nz/)