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Fairlane, LTD future hangs in the balance

Decision soon: A decision is expected on a future Fairlane within weeks.

Hope sinks for an all-new Fairlane and LTD as Ford boss paints a grim picture

21 Feb 2007

THE countdown has begun over the fate of Ford’s Australian-built long-wheelbase Fairlane and LTD models.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman told GoAuto last week the company was "very close" to having to decide if the luxury limousine twins would continue when the next-generation Falcon arrives early next year – and the prospects are not good based on recent Fairlane and LTD sales.

Last month, Ford sold no LTDs and just 18 Fairlanes, compared to Holden’s 107 Caprices and 123 Statesmans, prompting Mr Gorman to say that Ford had not stopped building LTDs.

"We build to demand for LTD," he said. "We have not stopped building them and you’ll see our numbers are more robust in February. But that segment is very small and it becomes very challenging for us in the future.

"We haven’t declared our future on this yet but it is a challenge."Last year Ford sold 1105 Fairlanes and just 53 LTDs. By comparison, Holden sold 1986 Statesmans and 1090 Caprices, clearly dominating the Australian long-wheelbase segment.

27 center imageLeft: GoAutoNews, April 26, 2006.

Significantly, Holden has export markets for its long-wheelbase sedans, hence the justification for new-generation models based on the VE Commodore. However, Ford does not have the same opportunities.

Mr Gorman described the Fairlane and LTD as "great driving cars" but acknowledged that the segment had moved.

"And I think that to be stuck in a place where you don’t recognise some of the structural changes is dangerous," he said.

"In 2003 23 per cent of the total industry was the large car market. Last year it was 13.5 per cent, a 10 per cent decline over three years in a roughly one million market.

"That’s 100,000 fewer large cars that get consumed in a year ... and that’s 30,000 to 35,000 fewer Falcon’s annually. So we’re in a position that structurally that position has changed."When Holden launched its new billion-dollar VE Commodore late last year, the company spent $190 million on the long-wheelbase range.

"And let’s assume that number is even close to accurate, you’d have to have a big chunk of volume to make that pay off," Mr Gorman said.

Download GoAutoNews, April 26, 2006

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