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Mustang likely to become Ford local hero

The next Mustang is already being engineered for RHD, and likely to make its way down under as a Falcon-replacing performance hero.

The world's most famous muscle car, the Ford Mustang, is nearly certain to become the Blue Oval brand's new hero after the death of the Falcon in 2016. The next-generation Mustang is already confirmed with right-hand drive and company insiders at Broadmeadows are hinting strongly to Carsguide that it's only a question of when - not if - it is confirmed for Australia.

The born-again Mustang is exactly what Ford needs to rebuild the shattered confidence of its local followers in the wake of last month's early death notice for the Falcon and Territory in 2016. Especially as the FPV GT is also on death row.

Bob Graziano, the Ford president who is presiding over the end of local production, is reluctant to say much for now but hints that the Mustang is on the agenda.

"We obviously don't talk about forward programs, so I can't tell you we will have Mustang here. But it's one I hear a lot about. It's a very iconic vehicle, as is the F Series truck," Graziano tells Carsguide.

"For the next three and a half years, the hero car will continue to be the Falcon range. And we're really looking forward to the freshening coming next year.

"We've talked about a 30 per cent increase in models between now and 2016. We're going to conduct a lot of  research and evaluate what segments are moving and what customers want. One of the benefits of our strategy, corporately, is we can have access to products from around the world."

Graziano is keen for Ford followers to stay with the brand, and says it's not just about a single car or an iconic badge. "I want them to understand we have great products and we're standing by those great great products. That is the message going forward.

"We'll have a full portfolio of products, right across the board. I don't know that we'll focus on international or global or anything of that nature. We'll focus on the core pillars of the brand, quality, sustainability and technology. We're striving to be best in class in each of those areas."

Graziano says Ford Australia will still have around 1500 employees even after it shuts the doors at Broadmeadows and Geelong, with the majority in the engineering group that's now fully connected to design and engineering work throughout the Ford world. "The bulk of them will be in product development. The site here will continue as a centre of excellence for the global product development team. That is one of the key tenants of the strategy going forward."

But the news is not as good for Ford Performance Vehicles, which has only just been brought inside company headquarters after a buyout of its British owners at Prodrive. "We're looking at FPV at this point, and what we want to do with the brand going forward. We haven't taken any decision. We're looking at the line-up to be as efficient as we can be."

But Graziano is not confident about the Falcon GT. "I think in performance vehicles we use the ST name. I don't think we would use GT on any other vehicle. I think that would be very strange going forward. It's part of the Falcon nomenclature, from my perspective. I don't see us applying that going forward, in the near term."

As for the update next year to the Falcon and Territory, and whether Broadmeadows will even survive to the back end of 2014, Graziano is upbeat. "I'm cautiously optimistic that we will get through to the end of October in 2016. It's very early days since the announcement, but I'm encouraged by the level of interest. We're going to remain out there and remind customers we're here and customers can continue to buy with confidence."

But don't expect the 2014 Falcon to match the VF Commodore for a level of change and improvement that makes the new Holden easily the best Australian car of all time. "It will not be a VF-level change," Graziano admits.

"The best thing will be to get a renewed romance with the large car segment. They are good products."

This reporter is on Twitter: @paulwardgover

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