Ford's global design boss says the medium-size car - such as the company's own Mondeo, the Mazda6 or Toyota Camry - is the new large car.
With global sales of large cars in decline, including the locally built Ford Falcon that plummeted in 2011 to its worst sales result on record, J Mays told Australian media at the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo that it will become increasingly harder for the company to justify investment in the segment.
“I like big D [segment] cars but the market doesn’t like them,” says Mays. “It’s not a decision we’re making, it’s a decision the customer is making that they’re just not buying into that [large car] segment any more.
“And it’s not a function of Australia, it’s of anywhere in the world. That segment is shrinking. The new large car – in a big way – is sort of the C/D [medium] car.
“And beyond the C/D car you get a very small piece of the market.
“There’s always somewhere in the world that will buy [a large car] but trying to sustain that over the next 10 years is going to be really tough I think.”
Medium cars are on the verge of overtaking large-car sales in Australia after closing to within about 2000 units of models such as the Commodore and Falcon in 2011. The gap was about 16,000 in 2010.
Ford will reveal its all-new global medium car at this month’s 2012 Detroit motor show – a model that will retain the Fusion name in the US and be called Mondeo for other markets such as Europe and Australia.
The current Mondeo is already a sizeable car that isn’t much shorter than the Falcon.
Mays says the new Fusion/Mondeo will make a significant statement in the market and that, as with Ford’s other ‘One Ford’ global products so far – including the Fiesta and Focus – a number of variously styled off-shoot products could be produced.
Ford’s design chief wouldn’t confirm or deny whether the company could create its Taurus large car replacement – which is expected to underpin the next Falcon – with larger sheetmetal placed over the Fusion/Mondeo architecture.
“We want to get to get the Fusion launch [at Detroit] out of the way and then we can talk about potential top hats on the same platform.
“What you’ve seen with One Ford, we’ve done it [establish multiple vehicles off one platform] on B cars [like Fiesta], C cars [like Focus] and logic would tell you that there’s got to be some possibility for different top hats on every different platform we do.
“The possibility is there should we decide to [to put different top hats on Fusion].”
Mays believes the new Fusion/Mondeo will worry manufacturers of medium-car rivals.
“I think [with Fusion] we’ve got a bit of a milestone moment with this car. This is not just another C/D car. It’s going to be a real contender in that [medium car] market.
“And when I look at the competition, whether it’s Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan …we’ve got a really strong product that we’re bringing to market.”