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Front-drive Falcon looms

Push or pull: The current North American Ford Taurus (pictured) is front-drive, with the option of all-wheel drive, pointing to the likely future of Australia's Falcon.

Ford design chief says next-generation Falcon will abandon rear-wheel drive

11 Jan 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in DETROIT

FORD’S global design boss J Mays this week gave the clearest indication yet that the next-generation Falcon will not have rear-wheel drive, but a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

Officially, Ford still maintains that a decision has yet to be made and that the next Falcon – due around the middle of this decade – could retain its traditional rear-drive layout.

But Mr Mays, the company’s group vice-president of global design and chief creative officer, said at this week’s Detroit motor show that Falcon will most likely take its cue from Ford’s other large family car, the Taurus, which offers both FWD and AWD.

Mr Mays said the final decision would be made in the next six months.

As is the case with Taurus, it is likely that most Falcons would be front-drive, which would be lighter, while more powerful performance models would drive all four wheels.

27 center imageLeft: Ford group vice-president of design and chief creative officer J Mays.



“I know that rear-wheel drive is very important to the Australian market,” said Mr Mays.

“We’re not talking about it right now … we’re looking at it – but I wouldn’t be holding my breath for rear-wheel drive. I think the chances are it will be all-wheel drive.” Asked if Ford is prepared to face resistance from traditionalists who would rather the Falcon remain stand-alone rear-wheel drive, Mr Mays said the company has been successful consolidating its Fiesta and Focus models under its ‘One Ford’ global process, and expects the same with Falcon.

“I understand that (some loyalists will complain), but I think we are pretty confident that we will find the right answer. It’s the same things that appeal on a rear-wheel drive car in Australia that appeal for a rear-wheel drive car here in the USA.

“We feel very confident that we are going to deliver a car that everybody around the world is going to be happy with.” Within a couple of hours of Mr Mays’ remarks, Dearborn-based Ford communications executive Mark Schirmer contacted GoAuto to clarify the Ford design chief’s statements.

“While I know J was talking about possible directions for the Falcon platform, I confirmed with (Ford global product boss Derrick) Kuzak that the decision is still open, and that we have NOT turned down a specific path,” said Mr Schirmer.

“We are considering the alternatives (AWD, FWD, RWD), but nothing has been finalised. Our decision on Falcon has not been made at this point.” Mr Mays said a “cadence meeting” is scheduled in Detroit this week to discuss progress on the next Falcon’s design, along with the next-generation Territory, ahead of a final decision around the middle of this year.

“The global design team comes together at certain times during the development process, and we review all the progress on all the programs, not just this one, and then make a decision about what the next steps are going to be.

“We have about six months to sort out the layout.” A timeline for either of the Aussie-built models was not divulged, but a release date of around 2015 is likely for the next-generation Falcon.

As GoAuto reported exclusively at last September’s Paris motor show, both models stand a good chance of being indigenous designs.

Broadmeadows is finalising its styling proposals and is competing against other internal design departments in Dearborn (North America), Dunton (UK) and Cologne (Germany) to win the contract.

Mr Mays said that, while Ford’s current ‘Kinetic’ design language will make its way on to the next-generation Falcon, the styling would adhere to the model’s sports sedan look and feel.

“It will take some (pointers from the coming Focus) but I imagine it will also take some cues from the Taurus because – and I think you will agree with this – the Australians and the Americans have a singular affinity for a tougher-looking car.

“I have always equated many of the cars that we have sold in Australia to American muscle cars, and we want to have a little bit of that in an Australian sedan as well … and if we decide to do (front-wheel drive) then I think we will get it right.”

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