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by Tim Beissmann

The Ford Falcon endured its worst sales month in more than half a century in January, with the Australian-made family sedan hampered by slowing large-car sales and low fleet activity, and literally hit hard by a freak summer hailstorm.

Falcon sales staggered to just 931 for the first month of the year – the first time on record sales of the large car have fallen below 1000 units. Rubbing salt into the wound, the Falcon slipped to third in the large-car segment behind the Holden Commodore (2170 sales) and the Toyota Aurion (989).

Ford Australia’s Sinead Phipps confirmed more than 1000 Falcon and Territory vehicles were damaged by the hailstorms that hit Melbourne on Christmas Day and could not be delivered to customers last month. Phipps said all of those vehicles – roughly a 50/50 split between the two models – would have otherwise contributed to the January result, potentially taking Falcon to 1400 units and Territory from 804 to around 1300.

Phipps said January was historically a smaller volume month for cars like the Falcon as fleet buyers were not as active as in other months of the year.

The dismal result eclipses the previous record low set in the corresponding month of last year, when Ford delivered 1157 Falcon sedans. The slow start set the tone for a horror 12 months for the Falcon, which slumped 36.5 per cent from the previous year – down from 29,516 to 18,741 – setting a record low for the Falcon in a calendar year.

Ford Australia hopes it can avoid the same trend this year. Sales figures should get a boost in February when the repaired hail-damaged cars are delivered to showrooms. The true test will come in April when Ford Australia’s great white hope, the fuel-efficient four-cylinder Falcon EcoBoost, hits the market.

Phipps said Ford expected January would be the Falcon’s worst sales month for 2012, pending any similar natural disasters or factors out of its control.

January’s sales figures made it clear Australian consumers are moving away from traditional large family cars.

The Holden Cruze outsold the Commodore for the first time in history, with the locally made small car achieving 2445 sales compared to the large car’s 2170.

The large-car segment as a whole shrunk 6.8 per cent compared to January 2011, down from 5056 units to 4713. It has now been overtaken by the medium segment (which includes cars like the Toyota Camry, Subaru Liberty and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class), which increased 35 per cent from 4707 vehicles in January 2011 to 6356 in January 2012.




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