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Ford considers radical Falcon

New trend: Our artist's impression of a Commodore-based Holden MPV also indicates how the next Falcon could look.

The sales shift toward All-Terrain Wagons has Ford pondering the future shape of the Falcon in Australia

18 Nov 1999

FORD Australia is considering a radical new approach to the next generation Falcon, which could take on the look of a multi-purpose vehicle.

Company president Mr Geoff Polites is closely watching the trend towards ATWs (All-Terrain Wagons) such as the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, and even MPVs like the Kia Carnival.

Mr Polites said the sales trend towards such vehicles, with their high seating positions and room for up to seven occupants, was inexorable.

And most of the sales are coming at the expense of conventional "three-box" sedans with a bonnet, passenger compartment and boot.

"The days of the three-box sedan are possibly numbered," said Mr Polites this week.

"Car companies are thinking of different ways of packaging and ATWs - the lifestyle/crossover type vehicles - are part of that. Technology gives manufacturers the opportunity of doing different things.

"We have two years to decide what form the next Falcon takes and maybe that is something we will have to consider." Ford is already developing a four-wheel drive version of the AU Falcon wagon called Project Raptor.

And the company is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the smaller Ford Escape, which has been developed in conjunction with Mazda to compete with the CR-V. It is due to be released in the second half of 2000.

Mr Polites agrees it would be a bold move to replace the Falcon sedan with an ATW, but it could be possible to build two versions on the same platform - even without four-wheel drive.

Consumers appear more interested in the look and safety of ATWs more than their capacity to go off-road.

Holden and Mitsubishi share Ford's interest in the market trend and are conducting feasibility studies on building people-movers using the Commodore and Magna platforms.

Mr Polites pointed out that All-Terrain Wagons accounted for only 6.9 per cent of the total Australian vehicle market as recently as 1995 but this year that figure has almost doubled to 13.3 per cent.

There are now 41 individual models competing in the ATW market segment, which has accounted for 85,000 sales to the end of October.

In the same period, the upper-medium car segment in which the Falcon competes has fallen from 30.3 per cent of the Australian market to 26.1 per cent.

The people-mover or MPV market, long dominated by the Toyota Tarago, has grown from 1.1 per cent in 1995 to 1.6 per cent last month with the addition of the Kia Carnival, which has shot to market leadership.

The only other segment to record growth over the past four years has been small cars over $17,000, which has risen from 13.2 per cent to 17.8 per cent, mainly because of the success of the Nissan Pulsar.

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