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Ford kills Falcon wagon

End of the line: Falcon load-lugger will effectively be replaced by diesel Mondeo wagon.

Axe finally falls on Aussie fleet-vehicle icon as Ford cuts Falcon wagon loose

24 Mar 2010

THE last Falcon wagon will roll off Ford Australia’s assembly line in late June after almost 50 years of service.

Ford Australia president Marin Burela announced the widely anticipated move in a media teleconference late today, when Ford also confirmed it hopes to replace lost sales with a diesel version of the Mondeo wagon by the time the Falcon wagon is retired mid-year.

“After a lot of detailed review and focus group discussions with our customers we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to retire the Falcon wagon,” he said.

“We’ll be retiring the Falcon wagon in the latter part of this year. It’s done an outstanding job for us over the years and has certainly delivered the customer expectation that the Falcon wagon was intended to deliver.

“But we’ve now got to a point in time where we’ve moved on and we’ve moved on in a way that in fact continues to build on the product line-up that we have in the country.”

Mr Burela conceded that stricter new Euro 4 emissions regulations that come into force in Australia from July 1 played a major role in the demise of the Falcon wagon, which accounted for fewer than 2500 of the 31,000 Falcons Ford sold in 2009.

Ford’s decision means the wagon, which is sold in BF III guise rather than joining the newer FG Falcon sedan and ute models released in 2008, will not be among the upgraded Falcon range due to be released following June 30, after which Ford will no longer be able to produce vehicles without an upgraded version of its current 4.0-litre inline petrol six.

“Let me be clear on this, we certainly did not see it was good business to go out there and invest in the Falcon wagon to bring it to the need level and technology level required to move forward and bring it into the next decade ... we didn’t see that as a wise decision,” said Mr Burela.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Mondeo Wagon.

Ford said it will satisfy its remaining orders for the Falcon wagon – predominantly from fleet buyers including Telstra – and believes the introduction of a diesel version of the current MB Mondeo wagon will fulfil the needs of fleet buyers from the third quarter of 2010.

“The Mondeo wagon has presented a compelling proposition for wagon customers since it was introduced in July last year,” said Ford Australia vice-president of marketing, sales and service Beth Donovan in a press release today.

“Packed full of equipment and features, and sporting a spacious cargo area with generous payload capability, Mondeo wagon delivers an ideal package to serve the needs of both private and fleet customers.”

Ford says the oil-burning Mondeo wagon’s more powerful and fuel-efficient new turbo-diesel engine will appeal to business, family and lifestyle buyers seeking lower running costs.

“Over the past 12 months there has been an increasing shift in consumer preferences for this sector of the market, with growing customer expectations for improved safety features, new technologies, contemporary styling and the option for alternative fuels,” said Ms Donovan.

“In order to meet these changing customer expectations in the long term, the Falcon wagon will cease production, while the introduction of a new diesel Mondeo wagon will present a modern alternative to fulfil the needs of both private and fleet customers.”

Mr Burela went further, saying Ford’s research showed both buyer types could be attracted in even greater numbers to the Mondeo wagon.

“With all of our existing Falcon wagon customers, they’ve actually seen the Mondeo as two things – one, a tool of trade and two, a very contemporary, lifestyle, family vehicle that actually accommodates multiple user requirements and groups.

“So I think we actually have both here, and that’s how we’re going to promote it. From what we’ve seen so far, not only are our major customers very keen to move to Mondeo, we’re now finding other customers that we didn’t have the ability to communicate with.

“We’re very excited and we have an enormous amount of interest around the vehicle.

"We’re talking with our customers now about how that will be manifested itself into orders to ensure that as we transition from Falcon to Mondeo it will be seamless.

“And in fact from what we’ve seen so far I think we’ll see a significant uplift in sales and volume. We’re opening a door that was not previously open to us.”

Mr Burela said the diesel Mondeo wagon’s cargo space and fuel economy would be unrivalled in its class.

“The real benefit that our customers are going to have with the Mondeo wagon is that not only does it bring great European styling but it also brings an unprecedented level of fuel efficiency that doesn’t currently exist in the market with the diesel.

“If you look at the Mondeo wagon, its actual carrying capacity is larger both with the rear seat up and down versus its main competitor in the marketplace, which happens to be the GM Holden Sportwagon.

“So when you look at the customer we’re trying to satisfy and how, the Mondeo fits in very well into that space.

“They (the Falcon and Mondeo) are very different vehicles. Fuel efficiency and cost of ownership is so critical that ... when we bring the diesel in with the wagon we will hit the sweet spot in both respects.

“Our volumes on Mondeo will continue to grow in 2010 and the wagon and diesel will be a big part of that.

“When I joined the Ford Motor Company 26 years ago we were doing Falcon wagon then and it’s still a great car now, but we’re now moving forward to meet consumer needs and wants.

“We’re very comfortable with the decision we’ve made and that is that the Mondeo wagon is the one that we’re moving forward with."Mr Burela said he believeed that the Territory would also benefit from increased fleet sales in the absence of the Falcon wagon.

“I actually think that the Territory is such a special and unique vehicle that ... I wouldn’t be surprised at all if certain customers that have been buying a Falcon wagon start looking at and considering the Territory,” he said.

Although Ford has ruled out a fully-loaded luxury version of the 1998 AU Falcon-based wagon as a final swansong for the longest-running Falcon model in Ford Australia’s history, the company could produce a stripped-out version of the rear-drive Territory to bolster the fleet appeal of Australia’s only locally made SUV.

Ford Australia has committed to releasing further fleet-friendly models within the next 12 month, including the next-generation liquid LPG injection Falcon LPI in October, plus the 2011 Territory diesel and Falcon four-cylinder, which could arrive as early as the first quarter of next year.

Ford’s wagon strategy could also include Australia’s first long-bodied version of the Focus small-car, which will be replaced in 2011, as well as the closely related Kuga, which will eventually replace the Escape as Ford’s compact SUV entrant.

In addition to the diesel Mondeo wagon, in the third quarter of this year Ford will release upgraded Falcon and Territory models, powered by an EU4-compliant six-cylinder and, for the Falcon XR8, an all-new 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8 – a supercharged version of which is expected to power V8 FPV models from mid-year.

Based on the $3250 purchase price premium for the diesel Mondeo hatch, expect diesel Mondeo wagon pricing to start from around $35,000.

The 2.3-litre LX auto petrol opens the Mondeo wagon range at $31,790, while the Mondeo Zetec diesel-auto hatch costs $38,990.

Ford’s last Falcon wagon continues to be priced from $41,620.

“We’ve got a lot going on,” said Mr Burela. “We’re moving forward at accelerated pace. The product actions at Ford of Australia are probably unprecedented in terms of the number of launches we’re going to have in the next 12 months.”

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