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Falcon can defeat Commodore, says Ford

A month away: All-new Falcon goes on sale in May.

Bill Osborne is adamant Falcon can return to large-car sales dominance

Ford logo27 Mar 2008

HOLDEN'S new Commodore may currently be almost twice as popular as Ford's aged Falcon, but new Ford Australia chief Bill Osborne says the new Falcon can reverse one of the largest sales advantages ever seen in the declining Australian large-car market.

Asked if he believed the redesigned FG Falcon range can return Ford to large-car sales leadership after a decade of Commodore dominance, Mr Osborne said: "I do, and my belief in that is based on one generic belief about the market and that is that ultimately the best product wins.

"I fundamentally believe we have the best product in the market and it's up to us and our dealers to convince buyers of that," he said.

"I have no fear of comparing this product head to head with the Holden or the Toyota offerings, because I do believe it's a world-class product that's head and shoulders over both of our principal competitors in the market – and I say that without apology."However, the newly appointed Ford Australia president was reluctant to predict a timeframe in which the new Falcon, which will be launched in sedan and utility forms in May, would defeat Holden's VE Commodore range, which will be complete by around the same time, when the new Sportwagon joins its sedan and utes tablemates on sale.

"It's not the type of thing that's accomplished overnight," said Mr Osborne. "Over time the best product wins and I've seen that time and time again in my career. When you come to market with a very strong product and you offer it at an attractive and compelling price, you just have to tell enough people about and eventually they come.

"I wouldn't give you market share projections at this point, but I do believe it is a product that will ultimately obtain segment leadership," he said.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Australia president Bill Osborne.

Holden has dominated Australia's large-car market since the launch of the all-new VT Commodore in 1997, when the Lion brand attracted more than 77,000 sedan and wagon customers for a 38.6 per cent share of a segment that accounted for almost 200,000 sales annually – and represented 37 per cent of the total new vehicle market.

In the same year, Ford's EL Falcon range was a close second in terms of popularity, with almost 72,000 sales and a 36.1 per cent segment share.

Last year, large cars found about 133,000 new homes, representing just 12.7 per cent of all new vehicle sales in Australia, and to the end of February this year Falcon sales were down a massive 25.5 per cent, with Commodore sales 16.6 per cent lower.

At its peak nine years ago, Holden sold almost 95,000 Commodores (including utes), but sales of large cars in Australia are now at a 14-year low as new-car buyers embrace imported vehicles in record numbers.

So far in 2008, Falcon holds a 23 per cent share of the large-car segment with 3772 sales, while Commodore has a huge 45.9 per cent slice with 7523 – a lead of 3751 sales after just two months.

Holden hopes to widen that gap even further this year, and used last month's Melbourne motor show opening (where it also successfully stole the limelight from the public reveal of Ford's new Falcon with its futuristic Coupe 60 concept) to announce increased standard safety specifications for the Commodore sedan – two weeks after Ford revealed model-by-model details of its FG Falcon range.

Aside from finally making air-conditioning standard on Commodore (previously it was a $2000 option), Holden announced all Commodore sedans and wagons will come with side curtain airbags as standard across the range.

The move goes one better than Falcon, which will come to market with front and rear passenger-protecting side curtain airbags as standard in only two of the eight FG variants. However, all new Falcons will come standard with head-protecting side airbags in the front seats.

Mr Osborne said the run-out of the current BFII Falcon sedan and wagon was progressing well and that he expected little or no stock of the current Falcon.

"It's important for us to have a very strong run-out. We will be in a very strong position at launch. There are no large stocks of BF now. We are exactly where we want to be in terms of our stock position," he said, adding that Ford had already commenced FG Falcon production at its Broadmeadows assembly plant.

"We already in switchover mode – we're building FG falcons as we speak. Some of them will be press cars. We really begin our launch curve, our acceleration curve, in April. We're driving towards FG production en masse over the next couple of weeks," he said on March 13.

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