April 18, 2011

Horse 1175 - The Falcon Is Replaceable


With the news of Ford Australia laying off 240 workers from its Victorian manufacturing plants, I wonder if Ford are trying to give us subtle hints that the Falcon has had its days numbered.

The Sydney Morning Herald did a nice write up of the new Ford Territory and some of that is reproduced below:
Revealed: New Ford Territory
Ford Australia has unveiled its new Territory it hopes can propel it back to the top of the SUV sales charts.
The local car maker's official pictures confirm the new look captured last month by Drive of a vehicle that will gain diesel power when it goes on sale in May.
It's seven years since the Territory was launched but Ford admits the new model is more of a "major update" than a next-generation vehicle.

The Ford Territory is essentially a Falcon derivative. It shares its 4L in-line six with the Falcon, however I think that it takes its four-wheel-drive system from the Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford in America.

What bothers me is the styling cues that Ford have chosen to give it:

Car manufacturers will try wherever possible to make their family of cars look similar. It actually helps with brand differentiation if you can share styling cues across the suite of vehicles.
Ford call their current design suite "Kinetic Design" and mainly features a largish, lower trapeziodal grille, with the headlights sort of stretched back into the front quarter panels. Admittedly this first appeared on the iOsis concept car and found its way onto the Mondeo, Focus and Fiesta but it's also starting to replace the 3-bar grille on the front of North American market cars.

Personally I think that the Territory is hinting at the replacement for the Falcon, which could be the Ford Taurus.

The last time that the nameplate Taurus appeared on a car in Australia, it was the unloved Fourth Generation car, which looked very swoopy and almost melty. The current Sixth Generation Ford Taurus if it was going to replace the Falcon would more or less be a perfect fit.

The 6th Gen Taurus sits on a Ford D3 platform which it shares with the current Volvo S60 and XC90. It was designed from the outset for both front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations.
Underneath the bonnet the Taurus has a 3.5L V6 engine which puts out 263bhp or 200kW on the nose, which means that it does the triple act of getting more power, using less petrol and being a lighter car. The Falcon's in-line six which has a development stretching back to 1963, only puts out 255bhp or 195kW.

Ford also have the Territory covered with the Fifth generation Ford Explorer. It sits on Ford's D4 platform which is a slightly modfied D3, and pretty well much shares the same engine line up.

Maybe it's because Australia is so far away from everywhere else in the world that the car manufacturers have been so insular. My big fear is that if Ford decides to pull the pin on making cars in Australia that Toyota and Holden will follow suit. Increasingly Holden's need to exist is on the decline, and Toyota don't really need to produce cars here, so the latest movements from Ford I think are quite worrying.
There really isn't a good reason why Australia shouldn't be able to build cars, but there really isn't a good reason why we should either. If we don't think up a reason why we should and soon, then the Great God Dollar will decide for us.

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