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Falcon and Commodore will be axed

Even the Commodore has suffered a string of showroom defeats at the hands of the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.

The cars we know today are heading towards the knacker's yard with no chance of a reprieve. That's just a plain fact that anyone who can read a balance sheet and the latest sales numbers will understand.

Big car sales in Australia have been falling for a decade and have dropped dramatically this year, with the Falcon looking critically wounded and even the Holden Commodore - which has been Australia's favourite car for 15 years - suffering a string of showroom defeats at the hands of the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.

But that's not the end of the story. In fact, it could be the start of an all-new one. The Falcon and Commodore nameplates are likely to continue to 2020 and beyond, but fitted to very different cars to the ones in showrooms today.

They are going to be smaller, more fuel-efficient, tied more closely to global development programs at General Motors and Ford, and - whisper it - potentially with front-wheel drive. Today's Ford and Holden heroes are dinosaurs by any measurement, including the ones that saw the Chrysler Valiant, Leyland P76 and even the Holden Kingswood overtaken by newer and more efficient arrivals.

Basically, people have stopped buying them. It's happening today as Australians parachute out of their traditional 'big six' family cars into something as small as a Mazda3 or Toyota Corolla in one of the biggest mass migrations of recent times.

What that means for the futurists at Ford and Holden is finding a formula that works for the Commodore and Falcon beyond 2015, when the hard decisions have to be made on development of cars for showrooms after 2018. A Falcon twinned with the Taurus from America is a no-brainer for Ford.

Local development can provide the taste and tweaks that Aussies like, while the basic engineering is handled by a cost-effective crew operating from Detroit, USA. Front-wheel drive is certain for the Taurus, with all-wheel drive likely to keep Aussies happy.

Things are less clear at Holden, but it has a range of global cars underway and it would be easy to create a cost-effective local look and then add the sort of Australian engineering excellence that's already working for the compact Cruze in production in Adelaide.