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Shock and awe for Ford’s 2014 Falcon

Inspiration: Ford Australia says the Evos concept provides the foundation for forthcoming models, including the 2014 Falcon.

Ford Australia design chief promises ‘big impact’ with reskinned 2014 Falcon

22 Oct 2012

FORD Australia’s chief designer has urged Australians to prepare to be shocked and excited at what the company has achieved with the forthcoming heavily revised Falcon large car that will be unveiled next year ahead of a mid-to-late 2014 sales launch.

Chris Svensson – who is the design director for the entire Asia-Pacific and Africa region – is unequivocal that this will be the shot in the arm the struggling Australian-built large car needs.

He said that Ford management from global design boss J Mays down were energised and upbeat about the new Falcon, the design for which is now locked in and was teased with a brief, obscured look at the front end as part of Ford’s Sydney motor show presentation last week.

The FG Falcon’s basic ‘glasshouse’ is expected to remain, but redesigned headlights, bumpers and grille, a new bonnet and front quarter panels will transform the look of the Falcon.

It will be the last major overhaul the vehicle receives before moving to an all-new global platform later this decade, which will likely herald a V6 petrol powertrain and a shift to a front-wheel-drive layout.

Before then, however, the substantial design work now evident with the 2014 midlife update could see the Falcon soldier on for longer than expected beyond 2016, although Ford is yet to commit to local manufacturing past that date.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Australia chief designer Chris Svensson current Ford Falcon 2013 Ford Mondeo EcoBoost.

Mr Svensson revealed that the entire Falcon design program was handled in Australia and that the team had plenty of scope to transform the look of the large sedan, which he revealed will make its first appearance during 2013.

This will potentially be next June, when Melbourne hosts the next Australian International Motor Show.

“You’re going to be surprised when you see it, how different it is versus today’s car,” said Mr Svensson, who said all the design work was done locally.

“We had enough scope that I think when you put the two cars side by side you’ll be shocked at the difference.

“We’ve been working on that for a little while now, and we’re really excited.

“It’s actually just one of the products that we’re working on – we’re working on many – but we’re probably more excited about it (Falcon) because of how it looks. We’re excited about getting that out into the marketplace because we think it’s going to make a big impact.

“It’s a 2014 model, but we will obviously be bringing something early to the world, sometime in 2013.”

Asked whether the new design was the booster shot the Falcon so desperately needs, Mr Svensson said: “Definitely.

“J Mays was at the design centre in Melbourne a few months ago and he was so excited about the Falcon. He thought it was probably one of our better products that we are developing ... he was very excited about what he saw and he can’t wait to get this car on the road.”

Mr Svensson would not go into detail about the extent to which the FG Falcon’s bodyshell would be changed, urging Australians to “just be excited that it’s coming – it will be a very exciting product”.

However, he did say that the design ‘DNA’ of the 2014 Falcon could be seen on new models such as the Mondeo mid-size sedan and the EcoSport crossover also shown in Sydney last week, along with the Evos concept that Mr Svensson said “is going to be instrumental towards all of our products globally”.

A broad trapezoidal grille that features on all these vehicles has been reinterpreted on the Falcon, while Mr Svensson said the design would still emphasise the large sedan’s rear-wheel-drive layout.

“We have a DNA as we mentioned with this show car (Evos), but we tweak it – we tweak it regionally, we tweak it for individual products, so there is a lot of flexibility within this DNA,” he said.

“I think the premise for us is to make sure that the cars are exciting visually to look at, are dynamic, they emphasise the great foundations of what Ford stands for – which is great driving dynamics (and) it’s affordability.

“So each car will have a unique appearance based on its marketplace and its regional input. But there’s a foundation, a string of design ideas that will tie all our cars together so it will always look like a family, or portfolio, of vehicles.”

Mr Svensson said the foundation of Ford’s current design DNA for all new models is based on the Evos, which was first shown in Frankfurt last year.

“You might see slight tweaking and iterations of it, but the foundations are there – the front end, the similar themes across the Mondeo, and you can look at the EcoSport, the foundations of that front end are based on this vehicle and you’ll see that in the next-generation cars from us.

“And that’s all of our products – from the EcoSport and Mondeo to Mustang, to Falcon. There are threads of ideas that you’ll see in that car (Evos) that will materialise in the whole global range of products.”

Ford Australia announced a $103 million investment in Falcon and Territory in January that will guarantee the production of both models until “at least the end of” 2016.

The program, which includes $34 million from the federal government and an unspecified contribution from the Victorian state government, will see the six-cylinder Falcon’s CO2 emissions reduce by up to 5.3 per cent from 2014.

Ford management last week confirmed the venerable Geelong-built inline six-cylinder engine will receive further upgrades, but the measures will not make it compatible with the tighter new ‘full’ Euro 5 emissions standard due to come into effect locally in 2016.

They will, however, bring a 7.5 per cent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency for both Falcon and Territory via a series of engineering and design updates.

Also coming is a lighter, smoother, quicker-shifting and more efficient six-speed automatic transmission, the fitment of new tyres with 10 per cent lower rolling resistance, and an upgrade in safety and technology.

The investment is in addition to the $232 million Ford Australia has already received and used for last year’s facelifted Territory diesel and LPG-fuelled Falcon EcoLPi, and the new Falcon EcoBoost turbo-four introduced earlier this year.

Notwithstanding the raucous engine note accompanying the 2014 Falcon images on the video shown in Sydney last week, all indications are that are XR8 will not be part of the range – despite the fact that Ford will officially take control of Ford Performance Vehicles, and the application of the locally developed supercharged 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8, on January 1.

Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano made it plain to GoAuto in Sydney last week that the XR8 was still out in the cold.

“I hear a lot of folks telling me that they’d love to see an XR8 come back, and we’ve been very open and upfront: we have not been able to put together a business case to make that work,” he said.

“We are looking at every option that we have, but I want you to understand where we are focused on with the 2014 program – and that’s about the design, the fuel efficiency, and continuing to move forward with the powertrain line-up that we have.”

Mr Graziano dismissed the suggestion that ramping up the 2014 Falcon program now could further hurt the sales performance of the current model, which is down 27.7 per cent so far this year and is staring at its worst yearly sales result.

Year to date, Ford has sold just over 10,000 Falcon sedans, plus 4400 utes.

“Given the recent announcement on the investment in January, it’s important we show people where we are heading with Falcon,” said Mr Graziano.

“It’s a terrific product and we’re really looking forward to having the vehicle in the showroom in 2014.

“It’s still an important vehicle in our portfolio.

“We’ve updated 85 per cent of our portfolio over the last 20 to 22 months and that’s been in response to what customers are looking for here in Australia, and we’re continuing to adapt to those changing market dynamics with vehicles like EcoSport, with vehicles like an updated Mondeo – (and) updating the Falcon, updating the Territory.

“But there really is a suite of product that we have in our portfolio. We spend a lot of time talking about Falcon and Territory, and they’re extremely important vehicles for us, but we have a breadth of (imported) product here that I think is just absolutely outstanding.”

The local Blue Oval boss would not reveal what percentage of Falcon sales was made up by the recently released four-cylinder EcoBoost Falcon, which will continue to be an important part of the upgraded 2014 series.

However, Ford Australia vice-president of marketing and sales Brad Brownell said that at least three years would be required for customers to fully appreciate the full advantages of the hi-tech, economical downsized engine, as was the case with the EcoBoost Ford F-Series in the US.

“It’s probably a pretty similar flight path,” he said.

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