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by Tim Beissmann

Ford’s CEO has given the strongest indication yet that the all-Australian Falcon could be dead within five years.

Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Alan Mulally said his company was committed to its “ONE Ford” strategy, which allows for just one global large car platform.

“People who make one vehicle for one country – a different vehicle – those days are gone because you can’t compete with the global companies, and Ford’s going to be a powerhouse globally,” Mr Mulally said, confirming that a new Falcon exclusively for the Australian market was out of the question.

He reassured that Australia was not simply being left out in the cold, but insisted that developing a global platform was a far more viable option for the future of the company.

“Around the world now, the things that are driving every purchase decision are quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and the best value.

“Australia is a very important market for us and we’ve worked hard to be competitive.

“No matter what, we’re going to serve the Australian market,” Mr Mulally said.

But he would not say for sure whether Ford planned to continue to build the Falcon in Australia beyond the current model life, which is expected to last another five years.

Ford Australia President, Marin Burela, told Fairfax he is hopeful the Australian-made Falcon – which sold just 31,032 units in 2009 – will have a future despite the ONE Ford strategy.

“The all-new Falcon doesn’t have to come into play until the end of 2014, early 2015, and we don’t have to make a decision until 2011 on what that vehicle will be, in terms of styling, technologies…”

The most likely replacement for the Falcon would be the American-made Ford Taurus, a front-wheel drive vehicle similar in size and performance.

Mr Mulally confirmed the Taurus was a likely candidate for Australia if local production ceased.

But he said another option could be that Ford Australia would help develop the rear-wheel drive platform for Mustang muscle car, which could form the base of a new Falcon, continuing an Australian manufacturing tradition of more than 55 years by that time.

“You can imagine another new platform, just like the Falcon, that’s going to be rear-wheel drive for Mustang, so you can imagine driving the ONE Ford we’re going to have every one of those, and so there’s no reason why we can’t have it in Australia,” he said.

The announcement follows yesterday’s unveiling of the Focus small car, which – under the same ONE Ford strategy – will be sold in 122 different markets around the world.

(with Fairfax, The Australian)