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Customers to decide Falcon ute future
Ford says customers will decide ute’s future – but its fate might already be sealed
4 Jul 2011
By TERRY MARTIN
AUSTRALIAN consumers will decide whether Ford would continue to offer a Falcon utility beyond the current generation, according to Ford Australia president Bob Graziano.
As the Ford Motor Co continues to keep plans for the next-generation Falcon sedan close to its chest, the likelihood of switching to a front-drive Taurus-based architecture brings into question the future of all vehicles – including the ute and Territory SUV – built off the current unique Australian-developed platform, which reaches the end of the line in 2016.
Asked in an interview with GoAuto at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne last Friday whether there would be a utility when Falcon enters its next generation, Mr Graziano said: “It’s really dependent on what the customers tell us that they want and need.”
Ford Australia vice-president of marketing, sales and service Beth Donovan added that customers were telling the company that they wanted and needed such a vehicle “in the sports part of the segment” but acknowledged that the imported Ranger utility was doing an excellent job in meeting broader market requirements.
In response to a question on whether sports ute sales were significant enough to keep developing the local ute into a new generation, Ms Donovan said: “The customer is going to tell us, and I think that’s the message you need to take away from it.
Left: Ford Australia president Bob Graziano. Below: Ford Ranger.
“The good news for us is, with bringing Ranger in, it gives that customer even more choice.
“Having said that, we’ve had a choice, right?, (and) we’ve just set a record on Ranger sales in June.”
The question remains as to whether Ford Australia has any room to move on Falcon ute if its parent company in Detroit decides – or has already decided – to switch to a Taurus-based platform.
On this point, Mr Graziano said “it depends on where we go in the future” but highlighted that Ford Australia was “very fortunate that we have access to global technologies” and that it was committed to the ‘One Ford’ strategy that, in part, calls for reduced platforms and powertrains.
“The engineering team was very instrumental in the Ranger development and so we are going to continue to work as part of that strategy globally to make sure we’ve got the right products in Australia based on what the Australian customers are telling us that they want and value,” he said.
Ford Motor Co’s group vice-president of design and chief creative officer J Mays told GoAuto at the Detroit motor show in January that a decision on the underpinnings of the next-generation Falcon would be made by mid-2011, so the utility’s fate might already be sealed.
Mr Mays also said at the time that Australians should not hold their breath for a continuation of a rear-drive platform but be prepared for (front-drive-based) 4WD architecture.
“I know that rear-wheel drive is very important to the Australian market,” he said.
“We’re not talking about it right now … we’re looking at it – but I wouldn’t be holding my breath for rear-wheel drive. I think the chances are it will be all-wheel drive.”
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