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Aussie tip for new Crown Vic in US
Ford in the US considers tapping into Australia to replace its ageing luxury car
30 Jul 2004
By BRUCE NEWTON
FORD Australia could be charged with a key role in the development of its US parent’s next generation of large luxury cars.
According to a report in the authoritative US weekly Automotive News, Ford Motor Company is "looking to Australia for a plan to replace the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis".
According to GoAuto sources, the cars are currently codenamed E396 and would appear for the 2008 model year.
Ford Motor Company’s veteran long wheelbase luxury cars are built on the ancient Panther separate chassis rear-wheel drive platform, which dates back to 1978.
The Crown Victoria and its spin-offs from Mercury and Lincoln are money makers for Ford because they have long since amortised their costs. They are staples of US police forces and taxi fleets, and have a retirement age private buying group.
They are also Ford’s mainstream export product to the Middle East.
But Crown Victoria police cars have been criticised recently because fuel tanks have ruptured in rear-end collisions and the range is desperately in need of an overhaul.
Considering Ford Australia’s expertise in rear-wheel drive and long wheelbase platforms with Falcon and Fairlane, it shapes as an obvious candidate to perform development work for headquarters.
It is understood the local division’s engineering credibility has been raised considerably in Detroit by the BA Falcon, Territory and its lead role in Asia-Pacific product development.
There are some obvious similarities between what Ford is considering and what Holden has already negotiated with parent General Motors.
The new Australian-developed Zeta architecture on which the VE Commodore will be based, will also underpin rear and all-wheel drive models from other GM divisions including Chevrolet, Buick and Pontiac.
Holden also exports left-hand drive short and long wheelbase cars to the Middle East as Chevrolets.
FoMoCo’s interest in exploiting its Australian division’s ability in rear-wheel drive vehicles was revealed exclusively by GoAuto E-News in January 2003.
But since then both global and Australian Ford executives have done their best to hose the possibilities and options down.
That the opportunity still existed was hinted at by new Ford Australia boss Tom Gorman earlier this year when he said the decision on left-hand drive package protection for the next all-new Falcon was due this year.
That car goes on sale in 2007.
A Ford source told Automotive News the plan was only in the consideration stage. Ford would have to lock this into the product cycle soon to replace the cars for the 2008 model year. The new vehicles would be slightly smaller than the current Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis.
Mr Gorman was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson told GoAuto: "It appears to be pure speculation on the part of a supplier and not the true reflection of anything under discussion. We are more likely to be supporting activities within the Asia-Pacific region."
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