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Ford lifts shroud of secrecy to reveal AUIII

Ford tinkers with Falcon again, producing a host of minor upgrades

8 Oct 2001

THE car that Ford Australia boss Geoff Polites swore did not exist - the Series III Falcon - will be launched at this week's Sydney show and go on sale in November.

But the upgrades Ford has made to its key vehicle range hardly seem to justify the veil of secrecy flung over it.

The changes are minor and virtually all non-mechanical.

The biggest new addition is anti-lock brakes on the base model Forte, which means all Falcon sedans and wagons - just like all Commodores - now offers ABS across the range.

So why the secrecy? Mr Polites' reasoning was to establish if Ford could keep a secret: "The perception is we leak like a sieve," he said.

But Ford passenger vehicle marketing manager Stephen Kruk offered up another reason for the secrecy.

"Purely and simply to keep our current series of Falcon selling," he said.

"One of the first things that happens in any run-out scenario is that the more advanced warning that people have, the quicker you've got to offer incentives because people start holding off purchase decisions." Considering Falcon's well-chronicled plight compared to Commodore - 38,665 sold compared to 63,142 to the end of September - it is understandable that Ford is keen not to slow down sales any further.

But Mr Kruk conceded that Series III would not be the weapon to overhaul Commodore, itself recently facelifted in VXII guise.

Falcon currently commands around 28 per cent of the large car segment and Mr Kruk estimated Series III would be worth a "couple of per cent".

So why do it at all? Because the substantial mid-life AV "Barra" sheetmetal change is not due until September next year.

AUII was introduced in April, 2000, in response to concerns over the original AU's styling and public perception. Without AUIII, Ford would have had a long slog to Barra without the marketing kick a facelift can deliver.

"It's a normal part of the freshening of the car," Mr Kruk said.

"Just to have something that's new, to upgrade it and to take advantage of more customer knowledge, literally to deliver better value to consumers." Added Mr Polites: "It's a long time to go without anything if you don't do it." Along with the upgrade will come the inevitable price rise, although Ford is promising it will be minimal, and certainly no more than the VXII range which was mostly limited to under 2 per cent.

The AUIII upgrades are currently limited to the short wheelbase sedans and wagons. The long wheelbase luxury sedans and the highly successful ute range will be upgraded in February.

Our accompanying chart (below) details the changes to each model, but in a nutshell all models now have colour-keyed lower profile sideskirts, clear indicator lenses, dot matrix windscreen, new sideskirts and Series III badging.

The most significant deletion is the 60,000km scheduled servicing, which now becomes an option as part of the Ford Solutions package.

The scheme, announced with AUII, covered the service costs of labor, parts and lubricants at authorised Ford dealers.

"Having it standard meant we couldn't tailor it to people and that was probably the one thing we didn't anticipate," Mr Kruk said.

"We needed to have something that was far more flexible and if you make it standard you lose that flexibility, and that's really the driver for this change."

What's changed on Falcon

FORTE
Additions:

ABS
Rocker mouldings
Clear side indicator lenses
Body colour body side protection mouldings (BSPM)
Body colour mirrors
Jewel metallic headlight treatment
Freshened wheel covers
Series III badging
Dot matrix windscreen
Warm charcoal interior on wagon Options:
Rear power windows
Scheduled servicing now part of Ford Solutions Program Deletions:
Scheduled servicing FUTURA
Additions:

Rocker mouldings
Clear side indicator lenses
Jewel metallic headlight treatment
Body colour mirrors
Chrome bumper and BSPM inserts
New design 16-inch alloy wheels
New interior fabric with velour trim
Rear power windows
Series III badging
Dot matrix windscreen
Warm charcoal interior on wagon Options:
Rear decklid spoiler
Scheduled servicing now part of Ford Solutions Program Deletions:
Rear decklid spoiler
Scheduled servicing FAIRMONT:
Additions:

Rocker mouldings
Clear side indicator lenses
New design 16-inch alloy wheels
Six-way power driver's seat
Chrome BSPM inserts (also on wagon)
Chrome bumper inserts (also on wagon)
Series III badging
Dot matrix windscreen
Warm charcoal interior on wagon Options:
Leather seats (sedan only)
Scheduled servicing now part of Ford Solutions Program Deletions:
Scheduled servicing FAIRMONT GHIA
Additions:

Rocker mouldings
New design 16-inch alloy wheels
Leather trim
10-way power driver's seat with memory (incl. exterior mirrors)
Clear side indicator lenses
Dot matrix windscreen Options:
Velour/leather seat trim combination
Scheduled servicing now part of Ford Solutions Program Deletions:
Scheduled servicing XR6
Additions:

Large throat exhaust tip (HP only)
Clear side indicator lenses
Series III badging
Dot matrix windscreen Options:
Rear power windows (HP)
Ford Racing bodykit
Scheduled servicing now part of Ford Solutions Program Deletions:
Scheduled servicing XR8
Additions:

Ford Racing bodykit (Tickford kit also available)
Clear side indicator lenses
Series III badging
Dot matrix windscreen Options:
Scheduled servicing now part of Ford Solutions Program Deletions:
Scheduled servicing

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