Ford Australia won't guarantee a halt to sliding Falcon sales in 2012 despite the introduction next year of a model range update and a new, more fuel efficient four-cylinder engine.
This year will go down as one of the worst in the Falcon's 51-year history. After four consistent sales years between 2007 and 2010 where the Falcon – despite losing ground each year – remained between 33,941 and 29,516 units, this year it is on track to plummet by around 10,000 sales, falling below 20,000 units for the first time in recent history.
The year-on-year decline is the Falcon’s worst result since 2005-2006 when sales fell from 53,080 to 42,390 – although this year’s drop, likely to be in the region of 35 per cent, is far worse in terms of percentages. The glory days of 2003, when the Falcon achieved its best ever yearly sales result of 73,220 vehicles, is now a very distant memory.
Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano is upbeat about the coming 12 months, but stopped short of guaranteeing annual Falcon sales would increase for the first time since 2003. “We now have the freshening out, we will have EcoBoost out early next year along with EcoLPi, so I’m looking for a good year in 2012," he said.
Graziano attributes the disappointing 2011 result to three factors: the lack of an LPG-powered car for the majority of the year (production of the previous model ended in September 2010, while the replacement EcoLPi started rolling out in July 2011), the lack of a Falcon wagon (production ended in June 2010), and the decline of the large-car segment. Ford also stopped building the XR8 in January 2010.
Ford is already starting to take care of the first one. In its first two months on sale, the brand’s new EcoLPi LPG system accounted for around 17 per cent of Falcon and Falcon Ute sales, pushing back towards the 20-25 per cent share enjoyed by the old gas models.
The Falcon wagon isn’t coming back, but a strong year from the Territory – buoyed by the launch of the heavily revised SZ model and the diesel engine – has helped offset some of the losses. Ford Australia is on track to deliver around 12,900 for the year, which would be the medium SUVs best result since 2007.
The third problem is undoubtedly the biggest one, although the decline of the large-car segment is exacerbated by the poor performance of the Falcon. The large segment has fallen 21.1 per cent this year. The Falcon has fallen 37.0 per cent this year, while the Holden Commodore is down just 10.4 per cent. If you remove the Falcon, the large-car segment is down just 13.6 per cent, which means the Falcon has actually performed almost three times worse than the average large car this year.
Graziano says the Falcon's performance in 2012 will largely be dictated by the direction of the market, but remains optimistic with the launch of the cheaper, better equipped FG MkII range, and, crucially, the addition of the EcoBoost engine to the line-up early next year. “It’s really going to be dependent on whether the market segment continues to decline … but I really feel that we’ve got a strong opportunity to continue to grow on the successes that we’ve had this year with all the new technologies that we’ve got.
“There isn’t one single thing that you’ll look at and say, ‘that’s what’s going to restore Falcon volumes to where they used to be’. I think it’s a combination of everything we have to offer as people begin to realise that the Falcon brand is not only an iconic brand but it’s got absolutely outstanding technologies and terrific driving dynamics that I think Australia consumers appreciate when they get behind the wheel.”
Production of the FG MkII has already begun and vehicles will arrive in showrooms later this month and early in January, while the Falcon EcoBoost – to be available in XT, G6 and G6E variants – will go on sale early in the second quarter of 2012. With a fresh and diverse product offering, there should be few excuses for the Falcon to perform in 2012.