Is The Falcon A Dead Duck? Should It Be?

Tim O'Brien | Jul 19, 2012

The job losses announced this week at Ford Australia's Geelong and Broadmeadows manufacturing plants should surprise no-one. Least of all the Australian government.

The Falcon has a problem, so Ford Australia's manufacturing operation has a problem. The Falcon, its sales attest, no longer excites the imagination of buyers - it's as simple as that.

Australian car buyers, private and fleet, have moved on from large sedans. And that's a problem for each of our three local manufacturers.

The traditional 'aussie-six' big sedan has been supplanted by lifestyle purchases: by crossovers, SUVs, 4X4s and dual-cab utes. Many of these purchases, most in fact, are large vehicles, but not large sedans.

That's the reality, and that's why Ford has to 'right-size' its workforce.

In accepting $34million in government co-investment, Ford Australia committed to retaining its manufacturing operations here until 2016.

It would not, and could not, commit to making no adjustments to its manufacturing workforce over that period - such a commitment would be suicide.

Last month, in June, Ford notched up 1431 Falcon sales. In the same month Toyota sold 4308 Hilux pickups - twin and single cabs.

Nissan sold 3034 Navaras, Mazda notched up 1955 sales for its CX-5 (a relative newcomer) and the Territory, a light in the wilderness for Ford's local manufacturing operations, garnered 1800 sales.

For Falcon, worthy though it is, the market - now saturated with choice - has moved.

In June, imported vehicles captured 98,801 sales. By comparison, locally manufactured vehicles from Ford, Holden and Toyota captured 13,765 total sales.

Of course, Holden has a strong selling small car, the Cruze, plus a modest export program to bolster its operation.

Toyota, whose local Camry and Aurion are collectively behind both Holden and Ford in local market sales volumes, has reasonably large if not especially healthy export sales.

But Ford Australia has neither of these.

Globally, best practice vehicle manufacturing plants operate on a minimum 250,000 units annual output.

Holden, with maximum annual output from its Adelaide plant of 100,000 units, is, while very near its capacity, nevertheless managing to achieve best practice line-speeds and output.

Ford however, with 3850 sales for the the month of June for its Falcon, Falcon ute and Territory, is on a trajectory to an annual production of less than 50,000 units.

This, in modern car manufacturing, in such a competitive saturated market, is unsustainable in anything other than the short or medium term.

The Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan USA, is a global monolith with total annual gross revenues in excess of US$130billion across all of its operations.

Read that figure again, and think about it for a moment.

As we have commented before, Ford Australia will manufacture cars in Australia for precisely as long as it makes fiscal sense for Ford Motor Company to continue to manufacture here. And not a moment, not a heartbeat, not a nano-second longer. That's the reality.

No Australian government has a pocket deep enough to divert that boardroom and the decisions it will make about this unique little manufacturing outpost down on this side of the world.

So what of the Falcon? Does its position in the market reflect the quality, capability and value of the car?

Absolutely not. The current Falcon is, in our view, arguably the best large sedan ever engineered and produced in this country, and, pound-for-pound, remarkable buying value.

The front end of the Falcon is a sophisticated double wishbone set-up (virtual pivot control link), similar to that found in quality premium cars such as Lexus and larger BMWs.

The Falcon tracks superbly, and, unlike many European suspensions, is perfectly at home and effortlessly comfortable on rougher Australian roads.

The Ecoboost 2.0 litre engine is simply brilliant; it is one of the most modern, sophisticated and capable engines found anywhere.

And it can be found under the bonnet of the Falcon where it provides the eager performance and balance of similar-sized but far more expensive European cars like the Audi A6 2.0 TFSI.

The well-proven i6 remains as one of the better straight-six engines on the planet. Robust and strong, when combined with Ford Australia's liquid phase gas-injection technology under the bonnet of the Falcon EcoLPi, it provides small car running costs with uncompromised big car power and space.

With equally robust six-speed ZF transmissions, and comfortable well-trimmed interiors (if not the best available), the Falcon is a world-class large sedan which deserves to succeed.

It must perplex Ford that such a fine car loses sales to imported product that does not match the Falcon's quality of engineering, robustness nor on-road capability.

But such is the nature of buyer sentiment.

Of course, those of us who were there when the 1966 'Mustang-bred' Falcon XR appeared, and later the astonishing XY GT, will remember how these cars captured the imagination of the nation, and had young kids like me wetting themselves in anticipation of one day getting behind the wheel.

It didn't matter that those early Falcons were just US market Fords of the same name with a more robust suspension and some local styling and engineering tweaks.

Like the Kingswood and the Monaro, they were 'ours' - we loved them, lapped them up, had a nation divided into red and blue camps, were proud of them and proud of the achievements of the companies behind them.

Then, Holden and Ford absolutely dominated the market with the Kingswood and Falcon. Between the 'Lion' and the 'Blue Oval' and Chrysler's Valiant, they held in excess of 70 percent market-share.

But that was then. And there is no way back.

- Tim O'Brien
TMR Managing Editor

Filed under: Featured, ford falcon, Falcon, manufacturing, australia, News, ford, ford australia, industry, tim o'brien, editorial

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  • ford says,
    2 years ago
    3 likes
    sad
  • Sean says,
    2 years ago
    3 likes
    RIP Falcon. You were great, and you still are a fantastic Australian-designed, engineered and built vehicle. Unfortunately, you're just not what the people want any more. Enjoy your last few years in production, perhaps the trusty Commodore will be joining you in retirement soon...sad
    • Alex Schmithorst says,
      5 months ago
      The Holden Commodore sells as the Chevrolet Chevy SS in the US as the Pontiac G8's successor. The Ford Falcon should "follow suit" and sell in the US as well.
  • JoeB says,
    2 years ago
    4 likes
    Thanks Tim for the positive article - its why themotorreport has much greater credibility than many other motoring outlets.
  • laurie says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Had they put a diesel into the Falcon I would have got that instead the Mondeo which by the way is a great car
  • BH says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Don't think so... shared platform will save it. Drop the V6.. Extended Ecoboost range. FPV V8's running direct injection LPG, maybe coupled with Hybrid engines. Next Falcon needs to be the next be the next Territory/Ranger. Game changers
  • David says,
    2 years ago
    All over, Red Rover. Even a diesel would not help it. It is too big - a 20th C car. The Mondeo is a far better size for a family needing space. The idea of a 2 litre turbo engine lugging that thing around is absurd. Anyone who owns a recent midsize or even Focus/Golf sized car knows how good they are. Even the taxi coys will be down sizing.
    • Dan says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      You may want to look into that a little more, the Mondeo is actually bigger than the Falcon in many aspects. It is wider, taller, has a longer wheelbase. And in reality the Falcon is longer by less than the width of a piece of A4.
      • matt says,
        2 years ago
        2 likes
        it really is funny when people say its too big, yet the 2.2 tonne territory is outselling it... and then to say the mondeo is smaller.. lolololol and again whinging about the 2.0 liter not being big enough for it... did we fail basic maths at school? look at weight/torque@rmp's produced..... instead of capacity... oh and try reading if you can... you will find these guys and all other aussie motoring websites say that there is next to no difference in performance then the I6.. good day to you "dave"
  • JT says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Falcon's the hero Australia deserves, but not the one it needs right now smile
    • Sean says,
      2 years ago
      Boom, that just happened. Batman FTW
  • craig says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Good article (although you are probably a Ford man!). The Falcon and Commodore are great value at around $35-$40k driveaway for the XR6 and SV6. It would be great to see Ford and Holden survive in Australia. Ford though seems on borrowed time, and Holden probably has about 10 years.
  • JoeB says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Only thing that will work is if they up the quality and features to the 2014 Falcon as well as make it LHD - make it export-grade targeted as a real alternative to the Euros. Australia us too small and competitive, it (Falcon) needs to be aggressive and it needs to go export. Either that or the best we can hope for in 2016 is a RWD made in Thailand.

    JT, you been watchin' Batman? smile
    • Roger says,
      2 years ago
      4 likes
      Ford global blocked any export of the falcon. The only place it got to was Africa for a short time. When the BF was out one of the big mags (I think Car and Driver?) published an article on "The cars that could save Ford" in the US, and the cover was full of the BF range.At the time they had didley-squat in the US, the Crown Victoria was about 25 years old for gods sake. Falcon was arguably the best rear drive platform Ford had globally, but Dearborn would not have it. US auto unions are extremely powerful, I am surprised Holden got what they did with regards to US export, but they have only sold very small quantities anyway.
      Our cars are completely unsuitable for Europe and Asia, Middle East may have been a goer, I think Holden sold the Caprice under the Chevy badge for a while.
  • OutbackOZ
    OutbackOZ says,
    2 years ago
    4 likes
    Great article. Whether your Ford or Holden, it will be a sad day to see the falcon gone. Holden is nothing with out Ford and viseversa, in the way that they need each other to keep the rivalry, to keep us talking. I do hope that Ford might keep a FPV market, but I know it's not practical, or cost efeciant but it's Australian and it is a damn good car. RIP Falcon, and good luck Commadore!!
    • JoeB says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      It ain't dead yet.
  • Eric V says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    As good as the current Falcons are, and they are very good, the biggest killer for a private buyer is the depreciation. The only way a discerning private buyer would consider a Falcon is as a 2 year old used car where the depreciation has already cut the price almost in half.
    It's a shame
    • Roger says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      You have to face that on most vehicles unfortunately. FPV actually has a higher resale than HSV, I guess there are less of them. Its interesting looking at the vehicles that hold value, niche items like Mini and heavy duty off-roaders. I had a 6 year old diesel Patrol with 120K on the clock, and got 50% of the original purchase price as a trade in! You won't get that on anything else.
  • Pmacc says,
    2 years ago
    4 likes
    Tim O'Brien, well written. It about time we had a fair piece being written about the falcon and the industry in general instead of all the industry bashing pieces dished up by other outlets
  • paddy says,
    2 years ago
    Let's face it guys. As someone who has quite extensively driven, and also been a passenger of Falcon (BA, BF and FG), the Taurus and the Mondeo. strategically speaking, the falcon has had its time.
  • 5valvepercylinder
    5 valve per cylinder says,
    2 years ago
    The writing was already on the wall a couple of years back and I think Ford HQ in the U.S. has confirmed this and no help from the government will ever change that, only thing they can do really is to lessen the impact.
  • MattJelonek
    MattJ says,
    2 years ago
    If Ford are doing so well with the G6 and the XR range plus the FPV... why not keep it as a high spec'd range and perhaps like they were but stupidly didn't BUILD the FOCUS in Australia! Keep jobs here. Makes sense, yes it'll cost more to re do the manu plant BUT are they not getting money from the government? Use that money to build/upgrade the plant. Build the Focus or Mondeo, get the sales back up in a different range of cars... or go kaput like Mitsubishi did... Ford should still build cars here... maybe lower the volume due to the LOW demand in the Falcon.... it's an idea Ford... look into it rather then thinking it's still the 80's where fuel was cheap and the whole world wasn't changing! BECAUSE IT HAS CHANGED! People want economical smaller cars. Yes EcoBoost in the Falcon or what ever they have done recently but I haven't paid attention! See how YOUR MARKET is changing with purchases and OPEN your eyes!
    • matt says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      oh the focus argument again..... ok... 1400 units a month for falcon with a 37k minimum reccomended starting price... they are making no money on them and posting huge losses.

      ok lets build 1000 focus's here a monthe for a minimum reccomended price of 19 990 DA... LOL can you "pro build focus in oz" boys please think about it for a minute.... it wasnt worth it back then and it isnt worth it now..
  • paul says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    75l fuel tank from Territory,Direct injection 6cyl,Diesel engine option.If they fit Territory they will fit Falcon.Bring back the XR8.BUt above all.Listen to your ciustomers and build what they want.We will buy your product if you build it to what we ask.This applies to Holden and Toyota as well.JUST LISTEN.Its not hard.
  • In praise of the ST says,
    2 years ago
    5 likes
    Wow ...

    Almost the first report I've read this week on Ford or Falcon that actually has some analysis and data driven perspective! Well done Tim.

    EcoBoost technology is the (petrol engined) affordable future ... not just for Falcon but also all the other models in the Ford range.

    Like so many of us - I grew up going on Xmas holidays on the vinyl back seat of Dad's XA, XB, XD Falcon and then even a ZK Fairlane. It's in the blood, in my DNA. Many of the gretaest times of our lives revolved around someones Falcon.

    But as Henry Ford might have said "History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we made today."

    It's difficult to deal with whats happening with Falcon, and Commodore for that matter, but it IS (happening) so its best to enjoy the remaining time we've got together.

    I know I am. I just picked up my new G6E EcoBoost this week. Wonderful, wonderful car.

    Long live the king. Long live the Falcon.








  • Worried ford fan says,
    2 years ago
    3 likes
    Government gives handouts to vehicle makers but refuses to purchase the same vehicles. It would make sense to support your investment would it not. Unfortunately we will lose another arm of manufacturing in this country. Australians have a cultual cringe when it come to buying locally produced products not matter how good they are. I remember seeing on a piece of old farm machinery these words. "BUYING AUSTRALIAN MADE MAKES AUSTRALIA. WHEREVER YOU TRADE BUY AUSTRALIAN MADE"
  • Mark says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    It's been clear to me for a long time, that todays motoring public in Australia are not interested in Australian made, no matter how good it is. Australian motoring journalists are at the top of the list of people to blame for not getting the message out there about how good our local vehicles really are. Magazine comparisons with imported vehicles that are tens of thousands of dollars more, always favour the import and it's 'sophistacated' driving experience. The reality is, our vehicles last longer, are cheaper to service and handle the conditions easily as they were designed to. Something that is never taken into account when test driving a brand new vehicle with a handful of km's on the clock. My Dad didn't always own a Ford, or a Holden, or a Chrysler, but he did always own an Australian made vehicle. He, like myself, is proud to be Australian, and proud of the Australian product produced. And similar to some of the comments written here, my best memories are of driving somewhere in the family car, with my family and enjoying the trip. It saddens me to think I will never be able to do this with my kids. It just seems un-Australian.
  • Alex B says,
    2 years ago
    A couple of people have mentioned some good and pertinent things down this page, Paul, Mark and worried Ford Fan.
    I have been writing to Ford and visiting my dealers for a couple of years now and they won't listen (Mark) My missus now drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee (worried ford fan) I practically begged Ford for a V8 Territory which could tow 3.5Tonne. I was repeatedly told that a V engine wouldn't fit so it wouldn't happen. CAPA performance converted Territory's to V8 around the same time and now it has a V6 diesel and Jeep sales are real healthy and I have contributed but I did want an Aussie made and designed Territory. I have a fleet of XR8 utes and I have begged Ford for replacements as they are overdue and I now have to buy a fleet of Holden utes which don't have the same carrying capacity and are not as durable and I know several other companies in the same boat. I now am looking for a luxury car for myself and have begged Ford for a G8E (V8) Nope no can do so do I go Holden for a Calais or Statesman or do I go to a Foreign car Mercedes V8, BMW V8, Audi V8, Jaguar V8 all produced where fuel is more than twice the cost of ours but strangely they sell quite well. I don't want a cramped excuse for a car, I don't want an excuse for a car that gets knocked around by our sad sad roads, I want rear wheel drive (better handling, turning circle and lower maintenance costs), I want a V8 and I want Australian made and designed. I want my kids do drive a safe large car with some strength and real estate around them not a sardine tin that will squash then if they are in an accident but hey guys, as you have said, they won't listen even if you are purchasing 25 cars so why should they listen to a guy or girl that wants only one car. Yes the Falcon is the best made car in Australia and in a lot of ways it is a far better car than most of the imports but it is the nameless faceless people at the top who treat us with contempt and sheer arrogance and they don't care what we want. Shame Ford Shame, I would love to buy your car but even though my request is doable and easy for you, you just don't want to sell cars to me and so many others. Kind regards, Alex B. Western Sydney NSW.
  • Justin says,
    2 years ago
    Ford falcon has always been a dead duck
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