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LA show: Ford chief Fields Falcon questions

Uphill battle: Ford's current Falcon is on the road until a major upgrade, meant to last at least two years, arrives for the 2014 model year.

Ford chief operating officer Mark Fields reaffirms Australian production up to 2016

Ford logo30 Nov 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO in Los Angeles

FORD Motor Company’s recently appointed chief operating officer Mark Fields has reaffirmed the US auto giant’s commitment to retaining car manufacturing in Victoria until at least 2016.

However, he would not be drawn on the Blue Oval brand’s production future in Australia past that date.

Speaking at this week’s Los Angeles motor show, Mr Fields – who is tipped to succeed chief executive Alan Mulally in the next couple of years – described the forthcoming 2014 Falcon upgrade as “a good affirmation of our presence in Australia”.

As GoAuto has reported, the reskinned Falcon will have dramatic new front and rear styling, and a 5.3 per cent reduction in carbon emissions for the locally made inline-six engine.

The upgrade has been funded by a $103 million investment announced in January this year. Around $34 million of this came from the federal government, while a small amount also came from the Victorian government.

The investment is in addition to the $232 million Ford Australia spent on last year’s facelifted Territory diesel and LPG-fuelled Falcon EcoLPi, and the new Falcon EcoBoost turbo-four introduced earlier this year.

Around $42 million of this came from government funding.

“We made an announcement recently about investment and some next-generation products in our operations down in Broadmeadows,” Mr Fields said.

“Those investments take place in 2014 and take the vehicle obviously through to 2016.

“There is no more news at this point but I think it's a good affirmation of our presence in Australia.”

Falcon sedan sales were down 26.2 per cent to the end of October, with just 11,719 new registrations for the period.

The fully redesigned model due later this decade is expected to sit on global front-drive architecture and use a global V6 engine, marking an end to the locally built inline-six.

It will not be a standalone local design but part of the ‘One Ford’ global program, meaning a localisation of a global vehicle such as the Taurus or Mondeo.

Ford Australia shed 330 blue collar workers earlier this month – 212 were made redundant involuntarily – and trimmed daily production from 209 vehicles to 148, nearly half of which are the stronger-selling Territory SUV.

However, the company told GoAuto at the time that its workforce would remain at 2900 for the foreseeable future, with its “readjustment” of staff numbers said to have brought its level of employees into line with its lower production.

The company’s local design and engineering arms remain comparatively strong, with a multi-million-dollar upgrade of Ford’s Victorian design centre recently completed.

Ford Australia has played a key role in the development of the global Ranger ute and Indian-market Figo city car, and has at least one model – a Ranger-based SUV – in the works. It also contributes to various other global programs.

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