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Can the Ford Falcon stay relevant? 

Now that mid-sized cars are as big as full-sized , something has to change.
   The Chevrolet Malibu, scooping all the awards in the US, has a longer than the Chevrolet Impala. It’s probably more roomy all round.
   The Aurion and Camry in Australia are basically the same size in terms of dimensions.
   And the newly launched E241 and the CD345 are roughly the same size, too.
   I don’t have the dimensions of the new 2008½ Falcon that was announced on Monday but I’m pretty sure they are not far off those of the supposedly mid-sized Mondeo.
    said months ago that when the new Falcon is launched, we’ll realize just how the two fit together.
   Here are two cars that look kind of the same, with the Mondeo more aggressive. The Falcon might have six cylinders, with the top XR8 with two more, but it generally looks soft. It’s been styled to look smaller, while the Mondeo has been styled to look bigger. The Falcon has rear-wheel drive, the Mondeo front-wheel. The Falcon is available as a sedan and ute, with the wagon staying on the old shape; the Mondeo has sedan, hatch and Turnier variants, all on the new shape.
   OK, to car spotters like me and for fanatics, these spell a world of differences, never mind all the engineering that has gone on under the body and the safety advances that the Falcon represents. I have a huge soft spot for the Falcon in general, too: I remember my uncle upgrading from his XB to XC, and when the XD arrived, it looked magnificent. Everyone living in this part of the world has a Falcon story.
   But to the average buyer coming to Ford, not really caring about front- or rear-wheel drive, and looking at how much fuel costs, the four-cylinder, ultra-roomy Mondeo just makes sense.
   Even emotively, because I always argue that cars and brands are not totally rational, the Falcon, with the exception of the XR models, doesn’t stir me any more than a grunty Mondeo.
   Fans of the Blue Oval, I am one of you. I don’t want to see the Falcon lineage end, even if the absence of a new E241 or “FG” wagon is ominous for the line. But this A$700 million investment could have been so much more.
    spent a billion Australian dollars to develop the and its platform, which will be used for automobiles like the Chevrolet Camaro. From this platform, Holden was able to get sedan, wagon, long-wheelbase sedan and utility, for both left- and right-hand drive. General Motors has been able to realize its investment by exporting the Commodore and Statesman models to South America, the Middle East, east Asia and the UK as Chevrolets, Buicks and Vauxhalls. They even come here to Kiwiland.
   Ford has spent seven-tenths as much to get a sedan and utility. There might be a wagon, who knows? The cars all right-hand drive. They sell in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Maybe a few other places: the UK for folks converting them to hearses and some taxicab companies in Hong Kong.
   Ford Australia boss , who has been in the job for a couple of weeks and had to launch the Falcon as part of his gig, says he can’t believe the Falcon wasn’t engineered for left-hand-drive exports.
   There are rumours that Ford’s head honcho, , has ordered a Falcon for himself. So the CEO likes the car, and he wants to drive it in the US.
   It’s a huge opportunity missed at FoMoCo, as it winds up production of the Panther full-size Fords such as the Crown Vic and Mercury Grand Marquis. The Falcon could have been a worthy successor: it’s a tough, rugged car that Australians love, and it just happens to have refinements for civilian buyers.
   This car could underpin a new Mustang. Knight Rider with an Australian accent.
   While Ford has a global rear-wheel-drive platform in the offing, the Falcon could have been a good pilot vehicle to try out in North America for a few model years. How about exporting the XR8 to beat the other Aussie car in the US, the Holden-based Pontiac G8?
   Even if Ford types get annoyed, because as I have covered on this blog before, there is an awful lot of at Ford, then sell the car as a . Remember when Mercurys were hot and had the best V8s in the business?
   Mulally knows this, and I think he’s the sort of CEO Ford needs to say: ‘We are one company. We need to work as one company. Not little fiefdoms with little territories.’
   For too long Ford North America has adopted a “not invented here” syndrome and blocked the sale of European-designed models. Ford fans might want the C307 Focus there, but they’ll have to make do with a rebodied C170. The excuse might be that the C307 is too expensive to sell in the US, but how does Ford manage to sell the Mazda3 on the same platform at a competitive price?
   Americans are quite happy to look at premium compact cars. You and I see that. Ford might not.
   The only place in North America where C307 is sold is México.
   When constantly buyer-unfriendly decisions are made—even one Ford executive likens the US Taurus to Homer Simpson—you have to question if Ford is customer-focused enough in 2008.
   There are signs of change. Mulally says that the next looks great. But if the Taurus and the Mondeo and the Falcon are all the same size now, then why do we need the Taurus at all?
   The nameplate, once a proud Ford model, now sells about a seventh of what the Toyota Camry can manage in the US. It has tanked—while Mondeo and Falcon are still respected in their home markets.
   Americans will love the E241 Falcon on the specs, though they might want fancier styling. With Toyota successfully cutting costs in automotive architecture, and Ford having multiple platforms for cars the same size, then some more serious work needs to be done—especially on the whole fiefdom mentality.
   The Aussies obviously have engineering brains—how about sharing them with the American consumer? Or the South American? Or the Middle Eastern? Or the Chinese and Korean?
   Yet things don’t seem to have changed too much since the days when we talked about Ford France and Ford of Britain, all developing their own models to the exclusion of every other part of Henry’s kingdom.
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Do you really think the Falcon would compete. I have not driven the new models but reckon it will be crude, if good value, compared to the Mondeo. The real mystery for the big Aussies is: Where are the diesels?  
I think it would compete in countries like ours where we are suckered in to big cars, largely thanks to fleets. Falcon has pretty much lost the taxi market in Wellington though; I don’t know how it’s faring there in Auckland. But the absence of a diesel in 2008 is inexcusable, considering good ones exist in the Ford empire. The reality is that one part of Ford doesn’t seem to talk to another part—this is yet another example.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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