Ford has announced a fresh $103 million investment for the Falcon large car and Territory SUV, though the future of the Australian-built vehicles is still guaranteed only until the end of 2016.
The new investment – announced jointly by Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano, Ford Asia Pacific and Asia president Joe Hinrichs, and Australia’s Manufacturing Senator, Kim Carr at the 2012 Detroit motor show – will see Ford introduce updated Falcon and Territory models in 2014.
Ford spokeswoman Sinead Phipps told CarAdvice the announcement is for a five-year plan only and there’s no new decision about the future of the Falcon and Territory beyond 2016.
Mr Graziano told CarAdvice the cash injection will be used to create “clean technology to improve CO2 and safety performance” of the Falcon and Territory and will also add 300 jobs in the process.
The $103 million cash injection by Ford Australia includes $34 million from the Federal Government’s New Car Plan and support from the Victorian State Government.
When asked about the specifics of how that cash would be spent Mr Graziano said: “[We] don’t get into that specificity but largely geared towards CO2 improvements and safety” also including “aerodynamic, transmission, tyre and design changes”.
Ford will utilise a series of engineering and design enhancements to improve Falcon and Territory aero drag by around 7.5 per cent, while also reducing tyre resistance by around 10 percent.
Another change, apart from potential design enhancements, will be the introduction of a new six-speed automatic, which Ford Australia says will deliver improved response, efficiency and transmission refinement.
The company says the changes will help reduce the Falcon’s emissions by about five per cent.
The new investment, however, doesn’t secure the future of either the Falcon or the Falcon-based Territory, built on the same plant line in Broadmeadows, Victoria.
Ford is due to introduce its all-new large car in 2016, a model that will join other Ford models such as the Fiesta, Focus and just-revealed Mondeo as global cars created for every market.
The new large car is expected to be offered in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, ending the Falcon’s long run as a rear-wheel-drive model.
The future of Ford’s Geelong-built inline six-cylinder engine is also uncertain beyond 2016, with new (Euro 5) emissions regulations set to come into force that year.
Mr Graziano said the I6 “engine is capable of getting to Euro 5 but will take a significant amount of investment to work through that”, though the company has yet to commit to that investment.
The improved Falcon and Territory, which will be released in 2014, will see the related models remain on the same platform that was first launched in 2002 with the BA Falcon.
The announcement coincided with the unveiling of the new Ford Mondeo (Fusion in North America), which is starting to establish itself as a popular model in Australia.
The Ford Territory finished the year as the best-selling SUV while the Falcon saw its sales dip by more than 40 percent, to hit an all-time low. Ford is hopeful that the four-cylinder EcoBoost Falcon, which is set for release early this year, helped by the LPG models will see a brighter future for the Falcon.
Territory sales are seeing a resurgence after a turbo diesel variant was belatedly introduced last year. With the four-cylinder turbo petrol engine launching in the Falcon in April, the more fuel efficient engines were part of a $232 million investment after the company backtracked on plans to build the Focus small car locally.
Ford executives admit the large-car segment continues to be a concern, with design boss J Mays telling CarAdvice last week that the future of large cars was likely to rest with medium-size sedans such as the company’s new Mondeo (Fusion in the US).
“There’s no doubt the large car segment is challenging, but it can remain viable if we continue to provide buyers what they want – fuel efficiency, design excellence, and features that enhance safety and the driving experience.” Mr Graziano said.
Ford Australia continues to be involved in global projects for its parent company. The company successfully designed and engineered the globally acclaimed Ford Ranger – which will see a spin-off SUV expected to be called Endeavour or Everest – as well as developing the Figo light car for the Indian market.
The local car maker is also believed to be working on a car project for the Chinese market.