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Falcon on the brink

Danger signals: The Ford Falcon is unlikely to exist as an Australian-only vehicle under Ford's new international One Ford policy.

Ford chief signals end of go-it-alone Falcon as Taurus looms as replacement

12 Jan 2010


FORD Motor Company president Alan Mulally has indicated that producing an Australian-specific Falcon will not be a viable option under its new One Ford regime.

The night before he was to reveal the first global model to be released under the One Ford banner at the Detroit Motor Show, the new Focus, Mr Mulally suggested the Falcon would not be immune to the cost-cutting policy under which a commonly-developed model can replace several different versions of similar cars.

Mr Mulally is committed to slashing complexity and doing away with duplication such as Australia and the US producing two different large cars, the Falcon and the Taurus.

He said Ford must design and develop common models produced and sold in many countries around the world to remain competitive.

“People who make one vehicle for one country … a different vehicle … those days are gone,” he said. “You can’t compete with a global company.” Mr Mulally confirmed Ford was considering the future of the Taurus and Falcon and how they would work within the One Ford framework.

“That is something that we are thinking about right know,” he said.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Taurus, Ford president Alan Mulally, Ford global product development vice president Derrick Kuzak.

Asked if any countries would be excluded from the One Ford policy, Mr Mulally said he didn’t think so because customers around the world wanted the same kind of cars.

“The requirements for the vehicle are so much more similar than they are not. Around the world right now, the four things that are driving purchases are quality, fuel efficiency, safety and smart design,” Mr Mulally said.

“It used to be that different regions of the world would argue that fuel efficiency was more important.

“Remember in Europe, it was like if you are paying $8 to $10 a gallon of gas or diesel they are going to put a premium on smaller vehicles.

“Well, the United States – you watch what’s happened and 30-40-50 per cent are cars (rather than pick-up trucks and SUVs) and a big portion of those are smaller ones.” Mr Mulally said 70 to 80 per cent of Ford’s production would consist of vehicles built on global platforms, and that would allow the company to take advantage of its great scale.

He said the Mustang would continue to be rear-wheel drive, which could see it as the only rear-drive car in the Ford world.

Ford Australia president Marin Burela confirmed that the days of Ford Australia developing its own vehicles for domestic use were over.

“Ford of Australia will never go it alone again,” he said. “Why? Because the dynamics of going it alone doesn’t make business sense.” Ford global product development vice president Derrick Kuzak told GoAuto that a decision on the next-generation Falcon, which is due in late 2014 or early 2015, would not need to be made immediately because Ford was able to develop new models faster than ever.

The most likely outcome is that the next Falcon and Taurus will be the same car.

“We have the Taurus that we have just introduced in the US market and it would be consistent to bring those two together at some point, we just haven’t made the decision yet,” Mr Kuzak said.

“When you think about what we need to accomplish to get investment efficient then that is a possibility.” Given that the newly introduced Taurus is available as a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and the Falcon is rear-drive, the next big question is what will drive format with the new One Ford large car feature? Mr Kuzak gives the impression that front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive will be the most likely direction.

Discussing those two options, he said: “When you think of some of the disadvantages that they typically would have, think about design proportions. Well, we’ve got some great front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive cars now in terms of design proportions.

“The Taurus is a good example. In terms of driving dynamics and handling, because of all-wheel drive you can have great handing cars. We have even made our front-wheel drive cars like Focus, we have some technology that we will be announcing tomorrow (electronically controlled single-wheel braking) that allows front-wheel drive cars to handle even better. So they are sort of merging.” While much has been made of whether Australian customers value rear-wheel drive or would be happy with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, Mr Mulally indicated that the direction Ford takes would be guided by cost.

“I think it will be less a function decision or a design proportion decision as it will be the business decision that we talked about earlier,” he said.

The Territory will also be affected by the One Ford policy, although a decision on it can be made a year after the Falcon.

It is unlikely the Territory would be able to continue by itself, especially as Ford has a similar model, called the Edge, in the US.

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