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Axe hovers over Falcon wagon
Ford Australia to decide the fate of its Falcon wagon within months
13 Nov 2009
THE fate of Ford's ageing Falcon wagon will be decided in the next few months.
Ford Australia president Marin Burela today said a decision on the future of the load hauler will be made next month or next January.
The most likely option is phase out the large Falcon wagon and rely on the mid-size Mondeo wagon, which was introduced four months ago, to fill the gap created alongside the Territory medium SUV.
Ford has built a Falcon wagon alongside the sedan in Australia since September 1960, when the wood-panelled Squire wagon was introduced two months after the XK sedan.
It now produces 400 to 500 Falcon wagons a month, most of which are bought by fleets. While previous wagons were available in various trim levels, including XR versions in the mid 1990s, the current model is only available as a base XT model.
Mr Burela said no decision had been made on the Falcon wagon, but hinted it was not long for this world.
“The great challenge we have is to make sure that we are not competing with ourselves in the market,” Mr Burela said.
“What we are seeing is that more and more and more of our customers that had really bought into the Falcon wagon proposal are now looking at the Mondeo (wagon) and saying 'Wow, the Mondeo package is outstanding'.
Left: Ford's new Mondeo wagon.
“It is a modern car with modern technology, is the only vehicle in its class to have voice control as standard, its package verses the Sportswagon is better in terms of what you can carry. So we are looking at this and asking our customers: 'What is it that you want?'.”
The current Falcon wagon is a BF MkIII model that was not upgraded to the FG model specification with the sedan and ute models in mid-2008. Its rear design has not been changed since the AU Falcon of 1998 and the leaf-spring rear suspension dates back even further.
It is only available with the last-generation petrol six-cylinder engine or the E-Gas equivalent and uses the old four-speed automatic transmission from Drivetrain Systems International.
Ford Australia has spent very little money on the vehicle, but did introduce electronic stability control in May 2008.
It has considered killing off the vehicle several times and senior executives expected it to die a quick death after the introduction of the Territory SUV in 2004 - a car Ford thought would appeal to fleets.
But fleet customers, including big buyers such as Telstra, opted to keep purchasing the Falcon wagon.
The big Ford faced another challenge with the introduction of the Holden VE Commodore-based Sportwagon in July 2008, which is popular with private customers, but even that failed to kill off the Falcon wagon immediately because fleets appreciated both the Ford’s cheap price and massive load area.
Holden said when it introduced the Sportwagon, which had a smaller load area, that the current Falcon and previous Commodore wagon were the largest car-based wagons in the world.
As they are the most prominent customers of the Falcon wagon, the large fleets will ultimately decide its fate.
“There is Telstra and a range of other customers that we have had a long-term relationship with and yes we have been in constant dialogue with them,” Mr Burela said.
“We have shared with them some of our thoughts, they have given us some of their early feedback on what their needs are and all of that is being taken into consideration in terms of where we ultimately go.”
Mr Burela said that Ford Australia would not let its customers down.
“What we are looking at is how do we not disappoint - that we in fact delight and create a reason for people to stay with wagon, whether that be Falcon or Mondeo,” he said.
“With the two of them sitting there side by side, we are just letting the market tell us what we want. Once we have received that, which we think will take another few months, one and a half or two months.”
If it is killed off, the Falcon wagon will be the second locally manufactured Ford to cease production in recent years, following the iconic long-wheelbase Fairlane/LTD's demise in late 2007.
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