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Ford confirms four-pot Falcon, dumps Focus plan

Four no more: Australian production plans for the Ford Focus have been abandoned.

Australian Focus production plan abandoned as Ford announces four-cylinder Falcon

24 Jul 2009

FORD has walked away from its plan to produce the next-generation Focus in Australia from 2011 and will instead release the first four-cylinder Falcon that same year, along with the first diesel-powered Territory.

Both surprise developments were announced as part of a $230 million investment in “sustainability initiatives”, which also include the release of a new direct liquid-injection LPG system for next year’s Falcon, to meet stricter new Euro IV emissions regulations due in force from mid-2010.

The three new engines will form the basis of a renewed fuel consumption push by Ford, but the cancellation of plans to produce the Focus small-car represents a major about-face on a project that was to have manufactured 40,000 vehicles at Broadmeadows annually, including 15,000 for export.

Ford says the next-generation 2011 Focus will continue to be imported from overseas – possibly Thailand, which has a free-trade agreement with Australia. In Asia, the Focus is currently produced in China and the Philippines.

The company today cited “changing global economic conditions” for axing the local Focus production plan, which was announced in July 2007. At the time, Ford said the Focus project would create about 300 jobs as part of its mid-term plan to return the Campbellfield assembly plant to maximum capacity, but today said no jobs would be lost as a result of the backflip.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Falcon, Ford Focus, Ford Australian president Marin Burela.

“After assessing the global requirements and costs of producing the next Focus in Australia, Ford determined that the changing economic conditions meant it could not make a business case for profitably manufacturing the car at its operations outside of Melbourne,” said Ford today.

“Ford’s new strategy allows the company to economically source small cars for the Australian market from overseas locations, while investing in leading-edge technologies to serve its core Falcon and Territory customers. The decision to not make the Focus in Australia will not result in any job losses.”

Ford Australia president Marin Burela said the decision would shore up the company’s future.

“Although difficult, this is the right decision for Ford Australia,” he said today. “Ford Australia has a strong commitment to manufacturing in this country built on ongoing support from employees, customers, dealers, suppliers and government. Our investments today demonstrate not only our commitment to address climate change – but to bringing leading edge technologies to the Australian market.”

As part of today’s announcement, Ford has committed to releasing a new-generation Falcon LPG model in 2010, as expected, as well as a 2.7-litre V6 diesel version of its locally-manufactured Territory SUV.

Ford Australia had previously promised both vehicles would be released in 2010, and the Jaguar Land Rover-sourced diesel has already been replaced by a new 3.0-litre V6 in a number of European models sold overseas, including the Jaguar XF, Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover, Citroen C6 and Peugeot 407 Coupe.

Ford says that initial analysis indicates liquid-injection LPG technology can reduce CO2 levels by 12 per cent or more compared to current LPG technology, while ‘clean-diesel’ variants of the 2.7-litre V6 will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 25 per cent compared to six-cylinder petrol engines.

However, biggest news is the fitment of a four-cylinder engine in Ford’s Falcon for the first time in its 49-year history – a move that will be the Blue Oval’s direct response to Holden’s upgraded 2010 Commodore, which is expected to come with a downsized direct-injection 3.0-litre V6.

Not just any four-cylinder, the Falcon’s first four-pot will represent the first global application of Ford’s all-new 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged EcoBoost engine in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle.

Claimed to deliver up to 20 per cent better fuel economy and 15 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than larger-displacement six-cylinder engines offering equivalent performance, Ford says the EcoBoost four will make the 2011 Falcon one of the greenest family cars in Australia.

Its fitment in the Falcon is part of the new ‘One Ford’ strategy revealed by Ford global product boss Derek Kuzak, who recently said the company plans to have a four-cylinder engine in every car in its range by 2012.

The four-cylinder EcoBoost engine was revealed in the US last week and is slated for a range of global vehicles, from small cars to large trucks. It will be available in the Falcon alongside the existing 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder, which will be upgraded to Euro IV standards next year.

The fuel consumption of Ford Australia’s lauded inline six, which was to have been axed in 2010 before being rescued by Mr Burela soon after his appointment last year, was reduced in optional six-speed automatic guise from April to 9.9L/100km, matching Toyota’s Aurion and the outgoing Camry. Last October Holden reduced the performance of its 3.6-litre Commodore engine to improve fuel efficiency from 10.9L/100km to 10.6L/100km.

While the Falcon’s turbo-four will not match the outputs of the I6, it is expected to nearly match Holden’s current Commodore V6 while consuming about 8L/100km – which is on par with the Focus automatic.

Meantime, diesel power will bring the Territory into line with oil-burning options in Toyota’s top-selling Prado and Holden’s Captiva medium SUVs. The same engine in Jaguar’s lighter XF sedan returns 7.5L/100km.

“Today’s announcements put Ford Australia in a strong position for profitable growth in today’s auto industry,” said Mr Burela.

“We are ensuring our core Falcon and Territory vehicles will have the most advanced, high-tech and cleanest engines possible. At the same time, this represents the biggest environmental transformation in the 50-year history of Ford Falcon by giving buyers the newest engine in the Ford Motor Company stable.

“Falcon customers will now have the choice of either the continually popular I6 engine, which will be Euro IV-compliant, or one of the first global applications of Ford's EcoBoost, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, while in a similar timeframe Territory customers will be able to access Ford's world-class clean diesel engine technology.

“Ford is fully committed to working towards fuel economy leadership in every segment in which we compete, across local and imported vehicles. In fact, later this year we will introduce the most fuel-efficient vehicle in Australia when we launch the Fiesta ECOnetic, which will be more economical than hybrids at only 3.7L/100km,” said Mr Burela.

Unlike the ill-fated Focus plan, the triple-pronged engine plan will receive financial assistance from both the Victorian state government and the federal government’s Green Car Innovation Fund, which has already committed $30 million to Toyota’s Australia’s 2010 Camry Hybrid project and GM Holden’s 2010 small-car manufacturing plan. The GCIF will contribute $42 million to Ford’s EcoBoost Falcon plan.

Federal industry minister Kim Carr, who attended today’s announcement with his Victorian government counterpart Martin Pakula, said: “The Rudd government has contributed $42 million from its Green Car Innovation Fund to what is an important milestone in Ford Australia’s evolution.

“The funding will run over three years, starting this financial year, and will support the application of a four-cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost engine to fit the Falcon.

“The Commonwealth contribution will be matched by substantial new investment from Ford.

“This is a significant win for Ford Australia because the Australian-built Falcon will be the first rear-wheel drive vehicle in the world to receive the EcoBoost engine. The new, greener Falcon will emit significantly less carbon dioxide than current six-cylinder cars.”

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