Australia, your last ever Ford Falcon is almost ready.
This is the car that will signal the end of local manufacturing for Ford after 91 years when its Broadmeadows factory closes in 2016 and brings with it the death of the Falcon nameplate, at 56 years of age, one of the oldest in the automotive world.
Ford has taken the unusual step of releasing photos of the final Falcon at least four months before it is due in showrooms to finally quash rumours of an early shut down.
"Our plan is to continue to build cars until October 2016, and the new Falcon ... is part of that plan," said Ford Australia spokesman Wes Sherwood.
Ford has released just one photo of the final Falcon: the XR8 performance model which is fitted with the supercharged V8 from the previous Falcon GT. It will release details of other models closer to the car's on-sale date, likely November.
Ford invested $103 million on the final Falcon and a refreshed Territory SUV -- $34 million of which came from the Federal Government, with an estimated $19 million from the Victorian Government.
The changes to the front and rear of the car are more than what was expected given that the Falcon's life is due to be cut short. Customarily, mid-life facelifts usually include minor changes to the headlights, tail-lights and bumpers -- the "plastics" in car industry jargon -- but Ford has taken the expensive step of moulding new metal parts, including the bonnet, front fenders and bootlid. However the doors, roof, engines and interior are largely unchanged.
Nevertheless, it's an even bigger financial commitment when you consider the final Falcon will sell for just two years; car makers typically try to recoup manufacturing costs for changes such as these over at least four years. But Ford has braced itself for another couple of years of heavy losses.
According to insiders Ford cannot close its factories early even if it wanted to because the vehicles that replace the Falcon and Territory won't be ready until sometime around October 2016 -- and Ford doesn't want to lose existing customers of those vehicles, or have empty spaces in its showrooms.
Ford Australia has lost a staggering $1.1 billion since 2005 -- including $267 million last year -- as Falcon sales hit record lows to 10,600 last year, compared to a peak of 81,300 in 1995, the last time the Falcon was the top-selling car in Australia.
Back then Ford built more than 600 Falcons per day, now production has slowed to 83 per day after it sacked 250 more workers last month.
Ford's remaining blue collar workforce has been trimmed to 800, split between the Geelong engine and stamping plant (350) and the Broadmeadows car assembly line (450), which has been building the Falcon continuously since 1960.
Ford says it will become the biggest employer in Australia of automotive engineers once the factories close.
The company plans to use its Australian design centre and test track -- and the 1100 designers and engineers who will remain -- to develop foreign vehicles.
Ford Australia has already had a key role in developing new models for India and China, two of the fastest growing car markets in the world.
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