Ford Australia Kills Local Production, Along With Hope For a RWD Sedan Export
The Ford Falcon-derived HPV F6 310. From the Ford Performance Vehicles website
Ford’s Australian division has announced that it will stop producing the unique vehicles it currently manufactures for that region. A strong Australian dollar and decreased demand for the Australia-specific models have contributed to a Ford-estimated $A600 million loss over the last 5 years ($580 million in US dollars). The fullsize rear-wheel drive Falcon and Falcon Ute, as well as the related Territory crossover, will soldier on until 2016, at which point they will be fully replaced by Ford’s standardized global offerings. The Falcon/Ute/Territory are expected to undergo a refresh for the 2014 model year, which will continue as scheduled due to a $A34 million investment by the Australian government for the upgrade.
The FPV GS Ute
The news came hot on the heels of Ford Australia’s earnings for the 2012 fiscal year, which left the division reporting a $A141 million loss; the company also reported a $A290 million loss the year before. Ford Australia has already decreased production by 29% since the end of last year to account for the strong dollar and decreased demand factors, but it won’t be enough to keep the division afloat in the coming years. Sales of the Falcon experienced a sharp drop off in 2011, and fell again in 2012. In contrast, the number of Territories leaving the FA showrooms has been increasing, but isn’t enough to offset the Falcon dive. Sales of any particular model decrease as time goes on without a significant refresh, but the external factors are beginning to bear down on FA in a way the company simply can’t fend off in the long run. The strong Australian dollar also prevents Ford from realistically exporting the Falcon to other markets. For instance, the base Falcon costs roughly $40,000 in America, and roughly $50,000 for the range-topping XR6 Turbo.
Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly facility and Geeling engine plant will lay off 1,200 workers total by the 2016 deadline. While Ford will continue to sell cars in the country, all models will be the global cars Ford has created as part of its “One Ford” mission. It is unclear what will become of Ford Performance Vehicles brand, as all current hi-po models are based on the Falcon.
It is unfortunate that Ford was never able to export the Falcon or its platform to other markets, especially the US. Chrysler had a huge hit on its hands with the 300 and Dodge Charger/Challenger, to the extent that even with substandard interiors and weak engine offerings in the base models, the styling more than made up for the shortcomings of those cars and the LX platform that they rode on. Even Chevrolet is getting in on the large RWD sedan trend with the upcoming SS. Ford’s only contender is the FWD Taurus, which hasn’t exactly been well received by either consumers or the automotive press. For years there have been rumors of Ford using a sedan body on top of the Mustang’s underpinnings, but nothing has come to fruition on that front as of yet.
RIP to Ford Australia’s unique offerings. You never really got the support you deserved, but hopefully the Falcon isn’t dead forever. If Ford sees the value in mass producing a RWD sedan for the world, the Falcon could see a revival yet again.
Holden, General Motors’ Australian brand and Ford Australia’s main competitor, will continue to build specialized models for now. The Commodore will provide a platform for the upcoming Chevy SS.