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Ford considers three-way wagon war

Mondeo wagon: Never say never forever, says Ford.

Mondeo wagon is back on Ford’s radar as it prepares to battle Holden’s VE Sportwagon

18 Feb 2008

FORD may be considering re-introducing the Mondeo wagon to Australia in the coming months.

The plan would be for the latest, third-generation wagon version of the European-built front-wheel drive mid-sizer range to slot alongside the ageing BF-based Falcon wagon.

Ford Australia announced this week that a lightly modified version of the current Falcon wagon – the BF MkIII – would be released around the same time as the new FG Falcon sedan in May.

The company has elected to keep the old workhorse in production “for as long as there is a demand for it,” according to Ford officials.

The BF MkIII is a continuation of the existing BFII wagon, and carries on the 190kW/383Nm 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol or 156kW/172Nm E-Gas engine coupled with the four-speed automatic gearbox combination.

With its ancient leaf-spring live rear axle and exceptionally capacious cargo ability, the BF MkIII is in a niche all on its own. With the Holden VZ Commodore out to pasture, Ford sees a very real opportunity for the old Falcon wagon to make hay.

The Territory SUV will also back up the BF MkIII in Ford’s Australian model line-up, especially when the significantly restyled version of the locally made SUV is introduced late this year or sometime early in 2009.

GoAuto has learned that the 2009 Territory facelift will share many of the “Kinetic” design cues that are present on the FG Falcon sedan and ute.

These include the tapered headlight treatment and new sheetmetal forward of the windscreen.

27 center imageLeft: Ford BA MkII wagon and Holden VE Sportswagon.

The upgraded 195kW/391Nm 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine is also slotting into the Australian-made SUV, along with the new 5R55S five-speed automatic gearbox.

A decision on the Mondeo is expected soon, as Ford readies a response to the Holden VE Commodore Sportwagon due out in a few weeks time.

It also gives the company a handy tool against the new-generation Mazda6 wagon and ever-popular Subaru Liberty wagon, as well as the established Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 407 and Citroen C5 prestige wagons.

The latest Mondeo wagon’s cargo capacity ranges from 542 litres with the rear seats upright, compared to the Territory’s 523 litres and the current Falcon wagon’s massive 1254 litres.

The three-pronged strategy will offer Ford buyers the choice of a sporty European family wagon in petrol or increasingly more popular and relevant turbo-diesel variants (Mondeo), a more traditional load carrier that will solely address the needs of business and fleet customers (BFIII Falcon), and an SUV alternative with optional seven-seater ability to take on the Sportwagon (Territory).

Aiding the Mondeo wagon’s chances of acceptance in Australia is its stylistic similarity to the FG Falcon sedan. The sedan and hatch versions – released last October – already clearly previewed many of the FG’s new design elements.

Ford last offered the Mondeo wagon in Australia in its first-generation HA to HC guise from mid-1995 to early 1999, attracting few sales.

However, with current Falcon sales floundering to an all-time low over the last two years, a Mondeo and Territory wagon strategy makes a better business case than investing heavily in an FG wagon derivative – on top of the Territory's original $500 million investment.

Nevertheless, should Falcon sales – as well as the large-car market in general – recover sufficiently enough over the next few months, there may yet be space for an FG wagon yet.

Ford has gone to the trouble of fitting the new sedan's Virtual Pivot Control Link front suspension to the FG Ute, and has also extended the wheelbase by 9mm (to 3104mm) and the front and rear wheel tracks by 30 and 35mm respectively over the BFII Ute.

The ute's long-wheelbase platform not only lays the foundation for an FG Falcon wagon to be built should the need arise, but provides a platform for any potential replacement for Ford's abandoned LWB sedan, which has shared the wagon's wheelbase since the ZA Fairlane burst onto the scene in 1967.

Ford Australia design boss Scott Strong has revealed that Broadmeadows did develop styling renderings of an FG Falcon wagon in the early stages of the car’s gestation three years ago.

“Sure, we sketched a wagon. And it was part of a discussion about where was the best place to put our intention (for it.”

Asked if Ford has reversed its earlier decision not to bring in the Mondeo wagon for the time being, Mr Scott said:“We’re always reviewing those decisions and I wouldn’t rule it out. I would never say never forever.

“Ford currently sells the new Mondeo wagon in New Zealand in small numbers. If Ford’s strategic planners see a real opportunity with it then we wouldn’t rule it out,” he said.

Ford Australia’s product development vice-president Trevor Worthington told GoAuto on Sunday the company was well positioned in sticking with the current Falcon wagon for the time being and promoting its Territory as a "sports" wagon.

“Our fleet customers have said to us that they absolutely love our wagon in terms of its ruggedness and reliability and the ‘cubics’ (cargo volume) that it’s got. It’s very much a tool of trade and a fleet wagon,” he said.

“We already have a sports wagon – it’s called Territory – so whether you want a rear-wheel drive one, or an all-wheel drive one, or a turbocharged one, or a super-turbocharged one it’s got an enormous amount of flexibility for a wagon so we figure that we’re in a really good space.

“We’ve got a fantastic sports wagon range and we’ve got a fantastic fleet wagon. So that’s the plan. And we’re really proud of the plan. We think it’s going to work really well for us.”

Read more:

First look: Ford's Orion Falcon breaks official cover

FG Falcon: Engineered to lead

FG Falcon: Inline Aussie six's final swansong

FG Falcon: A better packaged interior

FG Falcon: Ford goes to finishing school

FG Falcon: No FG wagon - yet

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