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Ford set to drop local four-speed auto

Cog swapper: Ford's Australian Falcon is set to get a Ford-sourced six-speed transmission across the range.

Falcon wagon set for chop as Ford goes six speed across its Aussie big-car range

Ford logo18 Jan 2010

By JAMES STANFORD in DETROIT

FORD Australia will drop its Albury-sourced four-speed automatic transmission from its locally produced models within months.

The company will also phase out five-speed automatics on its locally produced product late this year or early next year, which means all Australian-made Fords will soon run the six-speed automatics.

GoAuto can also reveal that the new Territory diesel and Falcon EcoBoost four-cylinder petrol engine will also run a six-speed automatic transmission when they arrive around mid next year, but it will be an internally-sourced gearbox and not the premium ZF transmission in the current car.

The end of the four-speed transmission is likely to signal the end of the Falcon wagon, as Ford is unlikely to upgrade the ageing BF-model to six speed.

The move to drop the four-speed automatic is a blow for Drive Systems International, which is now producing transmissions for its new Chinese parent company, Geely.

GoAuto asked Ford Australia president Marin Burela if the move away from the four and five-speed automatics to a six-speed unit would add a cost burden to the Falcon and Territory.

He said: "Here's the thing. Why do we keep moving from a four to a five to a six? One of the reasons is that it drives fuel efficiency.

"So there are many benefits of going to a six speed transmission, but I've got to tell you that the four-speed transmission we have had up until now has served us exceptionally well. The five-speed is doing a wonderful job for us."

27 center imageFrom top: Ford's 5.0-litre Coyote V8, Ford Territory, Ford Australia president Marin Burela.

Mr Burela would not confirm an exit date for the four-speed or five-speed transmissions, but GoAuto sources claim the four-speed will not live past October when Ford will introduce a new advanced liquid injection LPG version of its six-cylinder after an upgraded version of its petrol in-line six is introduced mid-year to meet. Both upgraded engines will meet Euro 4 emissions standards.

The exact exit date of the five-speed automatic depends on supply from its French plant, but its demise is not far away. Ford Australia opted for the five-speed in-house transmission for the introduction of the 2008 FG Falcon as it was unclear if the Albury DSI plant would be able to deliver a six-speed transmission it had developed.

GoAuto understands Ford Australia was the last new customer of the Ford five-speed transmission which lives on in the soon to be replaced Ford Explorer.

The Drive Systems International Albury plant has been owned by several different companies since it started supplying Ford Australia with gearboxes back in 1971 when it was constructed by long-time owner Borg Warner.

Geely bought the operation after it slid into receivership last February after Ssangyong halted orders as a labour dispute paralysed its factories.

The four-speed automatic, which has been extensively upgraded since it was introduced with the EA II Falcon of 1989, is now used for the rear-drive Territory and all LPG Falcons and the Falcon wagon.

The Ford-sourced five-speed automatic is currently used for the base petrol Falcon and Falcon Ute.

The end of the four-speed transmission is likely to signal the end of the Falcon wagon, which was not upgraded to FG specification in 2008 and only delivers about 400 sales to Ford each month.

Mr Burela, who previously said many of the Falcon wagon customers were interested in switching to the Mondeo wagon, refused to confirm the vehicle's demise.

"Wagon has served us well, we'll make our position clear within a couple of months on what we will do with wagon," he said this week in Detroit.

Mr Burela confirmed the new liquid injection LPG six-cylinder would arrive around October, replacing the current LPG engine which will not meet Euro 4 emission standards that come into effect on July 1.

He points out that while Ford Australia is unable to continue producing non-Euro 4 engines after that date, it is able to sell them through to the end of the year.

Mr Burela confirmed Ford Australia would be able to switch over from the current LPG engine to the new version without a gap.

"I don't expect there to be any major disruption in terms of changeover," he said.

Ford is also poised to introduce a new V8 engine – the 5.0-litre Coyote – around the middle of the year. The standard Ford V8 will be naturally aspirated, while a supercharged version will be used in FPV cars.

Ford displayed the new first Coyote V8 in Detroit under the bonnet of a Mustang. The all-alloy dual-overhead camshaft engine will produce 307kW and 529Nm in the pony car, although Australian specifications are yet to be revealed.

Also on the stand at Detroit is a 6.2-litre V8 with cast iron block for its trucks which will also be available with the 5.0-litre Coyote V8.

Mr Burela confirmed the larger displacement V8 would not power the Falcon.

"We certainly don't have any plans on the 6.2. We think the 5.0-litre is the right engine at the right time that delivers the right power and torque, the right performance feel,” he said.

“It's got the right weight ratio, it packages wonderfully in the car. It has got everything that we need and want." While Ford Australia is happy to talk about the new V8, although it won't comment on the supercharged FPV version, it is not prepared to confirm if the XR8 nameplate will continue on for another few months.

Mr Burela said: "People have asked me ‘What are you doing with XR8?’ I've said to everyone that XR8 has served us well and we will be very clear on what we are doing with XR6, XR8 as we move forward through the course of this year, probably around April May this year."

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