Ford Australia chief, Marin Burela, fresh from the Detroit motor show, says the Falcon will remain a part of the local scene despite speculation that it was facing the end of the road as Ford moves to a global strategy.
Ford has confirmed that the next-generation Falcon has a role in the "One Ford" global structure and could share its underbody architecture with other cars like the rear-drive Mustang. Arriving back in Australia early this week Burela attacked speculation that the Falcon was dead in the water.
"It was completely unwarranted," he says. "We have been very vocal about our `One Ford' policy and the great things it has done for Australia to date. There was nothing new that was said in Detroit that deserved the attention, particularly the negative attention that it received." Burela says Ford Australia continues to take a lead role in engineering and design in the region and this will not change.
The Broadmeadows team are in the final development phase of a global medium pickup, called the T6, which will be sold in more than 100 countries. "We're the engineering and design and development for that here in Australia and for the Figo hatch," he says. "Our position on Falcon and the future it has in Australia really hasn't changed at all."
Burela says reports that the company will drop its four and five-speed gearboxes — and move to a six-speed automatic only — are premature. "Sometimes I think that people read too much into things that are taking place around us," he says. "We have had nothing but great feedback about the four-speed and five-speed. We have no immediate change in mind right now."
However, the four-speed could be phased out towards the end of the year when the Falcon gets a high-tech liquid-injection LPG system for its six-cylinder. Burela says like all carmakers, Ford Australia would continue to make "any tweaks or changes to our lineup that are necessary".
"You continue to evolve your lineup to deliver the best possible combination of driving and finesse," he says. After the car industry's global battering last year, Burela is optimistic about 2010. "Coming off 2009 it gives us confidence," he says.
He says the Federal Government's stimulus package was timely "just as the global financial crisis was shaking confidence". For 2010, the Ford executive sees the local market quiet in the first quarter but then pick up for the rest of the year.
"Our view is that the industry will be as strong, if not stronger," he says. It will be a busy year for the blue oval brand with Falcon and Ford Performance Vehicle products getting mechanical and engine updates.
Falcon prototype mules are up and running with the new Ecoboost four-cylinder engine and Territory turbo-diesel, both of which arrive next year to compete against newer rivals. Ford has used the Falcon nameplate on its large car since 1960.