Ford Australia is running out the four-speed and five-speed automatic transmissions fitted to its locally made Falcon and Territory and replacing them with an internally sourced six-speed unit.
The new six-speed – different to the German-manufactured ZF currently used by Ford – is expected to appear in the diesel Territory and four-cylinder EcoBoost Falcon from next year.
The outgoing four-speed automatic is manufactured locally at the Drive Systems International (DSI) plant in Albury, which has been supplying gearboxes to Ford Australia for almost 40 years.
DSI Albury plant manager, Howard Morey, said the revelation has come as no surprise.
“[Ford] were already running out that four-speed auto which – in significant volume – was going to pan out in about July this year.
“It was always going to happen, we’ve known that was going to happen for the last three years,” he said.
Ford’s decision to drop the four-speed from its passenger cars seemingly puts the future of the Falcon wagon in further doubt, although the possibility remains that it too could adopt the new six-speed automatic.
Unlike the sedan, the wagon did not receive the complete FG update in 2008 and has since been available in BF III guise.
Ford claims it is selling steadily at around 400 per month, but Ford Australia President and CEO, Marin Burela, told CarAdvice in November the success of the Mondeo wagon would heavily influence a decision on the Falcon wagon.
“With the two of them sitting side by side, we’re just letting the market tell us what they want and once we’ve received that … we will know then the direction we need to move in.”
But contrary to recent reports Mr Morey believes the four-speed will live on into next year, admitting that as far as he is aware DSI still plans to supply Ford with transmissions for its ute into 2011.
“We were still going to build the four-speed for them in low volume for the commercial range right out until next year.”
DSI produces around 100 four-speed units per day for Ford and Mr Morey said the low volume production would reduce its supply by about three-quarters to between 500 and 600 per month.
Despite this, he said the impact of reduced volume would have minimal impact on DSI and its workers.
“We’ve already got other contracts and they just so happen to start at the same time as Ford are finishing off.
“We’ve been in quite a bit of trouble last year but our other markets are starting to ramp at the moment. It’s really hard to tell exactly what’s going to happen but what we see right now is that it’s probably not going to have a huge impact,” he said.
He said DSI is starting work on a new Ssangyong platform mid-year and beginning on other platforms with owner Geely later in 2010, and hoped for a smooth transition of volume.
“We don’t even know exactly what the run-out for Ford is. They’ve told us July, we know a number, but you never know exactly until you get about three months out and then you start to hone it down,” he said.
July was to be the date that Ford’s new Euro V-compliant, liquid injection LPG six-cylinder engine arrived which was to be mated to the new six-speed automatic. Mr Morey said recent reports that it would not arrive until around October surprised him.
“We were figuring mid-year but they [Ford] may not have told us yet that the gas platform has been delayed or something like that.
“Sometimes these things happen, but there has been no correspondence apart from what we’re aware of and that’s mid-year. But notwithstanding, anything can change.”
The five-speed automatic, sourced from France, is currently used in lower specification models of the Falcon and Falcon ute. Its life is dependent on supply, but is expected to be short-lived, and could end with the arrival of the four-cylinder engine or earlier.
When sales of the four-speed and five-speed do end, it will mean that Ford’s locally produced vehicles will be available only with six-speed transmissions. That will lead to improved fuel economy and also a likely price rise.