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Falcon could stay RWD

Rear gunners: Ford believes rear-drive vehicles like the Falcon and Mustang still have a place in the automotive landscape.

Design freeze nears as Oz-engineered RWD gains favour, global opportunities beckon

5 Oct 2010


REAR-WHEEL drive appears to be back in favour for the Falcon, with Ford Motor Company president and CEO Alan Mulally admitting that he would not risk alienating buyers and fans when the next all-new Falcon debuts sometime in the middle of the decade.

Furthermore, as part of the company’s One Ford policy, in-house American luxury division Lincoln may leverage Ford Australia’s large-car expertise by using a variation of the next Falcon’s architecture for a future ‘mid-sized’ model to be sold around the world.

It remains to be seen if this means that the existing platform – which dates back to the BA Falcon in 2002 – will again be revamped for the newcomer due from 2014.

More likely, an all-new RWD-focused all-wheel drive D/E-segment global architecture is under development to also underpin the next Taurus for North America.

Either way, not only is it almost certain that Ford Australia is driving the engineering development of Ford’s next global family car, it seems increasingly likely that the Broadmeadows team may shape the look of each derivative as well – perhaps even Lincoln’s.

According to FoMoCo global design chief J Mays, Ford Australia is preparing styling concepts right now for the next Falcon, to compete against other internal design departments in North America and Germany.

27 center imageLeft: The current Falcon driveline. Below: Ford's global boss Alan Mulally.

Every Falcon since the XA of 1972 has been designed in Australia.

Speaking to GoAuto at the Paris motor show on September 30 – almost 50 years to the day after the first Falcon’s 1960 on-sale date in Australia – both Ford executives praised the Broadmeadows team’s abilities to take total control of new-vehicle development in the wake of the T6 Ranger program, which has its global debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney next week.

“Falcon is a great vehicle, and we are going to keep making it for the customers, because they love it,” Mr Mulally said.

“We’re always going to keep looking at the technology that allows us to do (rear-wheel drive) … we have really cool rear-wheel drive (cars) like the Mustang and the Falcon, and they’re all different in the marketplace.

“But the big thing for Ford is it is always a Ford family, right? So if we’re going to have sportscars and need big sedans, too, we’re going to use the technology that is right for them.

“Because we love our rear-wheel drive cars, we love the Mustang, and we love our global platforms.”

Mr Mulally also emphasised the importance of leveraging Ford Australia’s unique half-century’s worth of experience with RWD sedans.

“We are going to have great rear-wheel drive platforms, and the vehicles that we have them on are on global platforms. So we are going to work with all our customers around the world to make sure they have the products they want,” he said.

“When you look at all the vehicles that people want … rear-wheel drive really does make a lot of sense. And we have made tremendous progress on front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

“But there are vehicles that really make sense with rear-wheel drive. You can argue that we have got some of the best in the world. So we are going to continue to make what customers want and value, including utes.”

Mr Mays, meanwhile, hinted that concepts for the next Falcon’s design from Ford Australia might be as close as four months away.

“(Australia) is contributing on every major program that we work on,” he said. “Chris Svensson has just taken over from Scott Strong, and will probably work for three to four years down there.

“They are contributing to major programs that we are working on, whether they are sold in Australia or not. We have got them involved in four different programs at the moment.

“They are an integral part of our design organisation … on everything from trucks to passenger cars.

“Next Falcon is just starting to shape up, and they’re contributing to that as well. We have a global team, and a global design competition on the design programs, and the Broadmeadows team, along with Cologne and Dearborn, are all working on derivatives.”

Asked if a Falcon proposal had been chosen, Mr Mays said the design process had just begun.

“We’re just getting started on it … but (a final decision) is not too far away. What I will say right now is that it will be an appropriate vehicle for Ford Australia.

“I haven’t been down there in two years, but I am trying to get there for next February because I owe them a visit. But they know what they’re doing and they know how to handle it.”

Speaking at the launch of Ford Performance Vehicle’s upgraded range this week, Ford Australia president Marin Burela said: "We are in the process of evaluating what a new Falcon will be. We don’t have to make a decision on that until late 2011 or early 2012."Mr Mays said in Paris that Ford Australia’s team is world-class and entirely responsible for all T6 Ranger and derivatives.

“Absolutely every single thing (about the T6) was designed in Broadmeadows,” he said. “They’ve done a great job on that, and it’s just a killer-looking truck – a very dynamic-looking truck.”

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