The current Ford Falcon FG is almost certain to be the last of its line with Ford Australia giving increasing hints that the next Falcon will be a ‘world car’ and could be either front-wheel-drive or even all-wheel-drive.
In fact the next Ford Falcon could well be largely based on this FWD Ford Taurus platform from the United States, or something very similar.
In perhaps one of the broadest hints so far about the future of the Ford Australia icon, the President and CEO of Ford Australia, Marin Burela, has told a briefing of motoring media in Melbourne that the next Falcon would have to compete in a ‘world’ marketplace and could not be an isolated Australia-only product if it was to have any real chance of survival.
Mr Burela said he was in a somewhat more fortunate position than his rivals, something of a hint that GM Holden had already locked away the next update of its rear-wheel-drive Commodore before the current economic crisis hit, saying that he did not have to make a decision about the future of the Falcon until late next year or into 2011.
Ford has given the FG Falcon a life through to as far as 2015 with the decision to retain the in-line, six-cylinder engine produced at its Geelong plant, outside Melbourne, but making it Euro Four emissions compliant.
It would be possible for the car to be replaced by a future development of a global platform used for the likes of the front-wheel-drive Ford Taurus, currently powered by a range of V6 engines, including a 3.5-litre twin-charged engine that is reputed to produce V8-like performance.
At the same time he gave a few hints at what could be expected from a new Falcon, saying that Ford’s business was in meeting the needs of consumers.
“Increasingly those consumers are making lifestyle driven decisions and in relation to cars those decisions are showing a definite shift towards all-wheel-drive cars.”
Mr Burela said that Derrick Kuzak, Group Vice President, Global Product Development, had made it Ford’s policy was to develop cars on global platforms.
Using his own previous position in leading the first such program, the latest Ford Fiesta, Mr Burela said this meant understanding the global customer and it also had shown that Ford could deliver tailored products to different markets using global platforms.
“If the market clearly says to us there is no significant difference between a rear-wheel drive or a front-wheel drive in terms of consumer preferences, we will respond accordingly,” Mr Burela has said.
He said he believed there was still a reasonable market in Australia for the large car, predicting a market of about 90-110,000 cars a year would still exist in 2020.
Mr Burela said that what the future held for the Falcon nameplate and product was very much in the works at the moment as far as Ford was concerned.
He said many questions were being assessed about the future of the car including just how Australian consumers felt about the question of rear-wheel-drive versus front-wheel-drive.
He added that in his opinion all-wheel-drive was becoming much more the norm in Australia and maybe this also needed to be considered.
He said the prospect of an all-new Falcon and just what it had to provide to consumers were currently open questions.
Mr Burela conceded that an Australia-only product would be a “very risky strategy for us to adopt.”
“Such a move would limit the car to the Australian market only, whereas to survive now products need a global reach and they need to access the support of global suppliers.”
Mr Burela said that Ford Australia needed to meet the needs of the market in a credible way.
However, he added that at the same time Ford in this country was a source of excellence within the global company that understood large cars.
Mr Burela said that Mr Kuzak, who was his boss on the Fiesta program, had been delighted with the work he had seen undertaken in Australia.
He added that ‘one Ford’ was all about using global resources to the best advantage.
“If we are to stand alone then we will have a very small outlook with a limited potential market.”
Mr Burela said that utilising the group resources could allow for different regional interests while better utilising those resources.
He added that the world was changing rapidly and Ford was changing with it.