Here at The Motor Report we?ve been sitting on what we thought was bomb-shell news: an impeccable source had informed us that Ford Australia, on direction from Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, would announce in February next year a progressive cessation of vehicle manufacture in this country.
In other words, we thought it was good-bye to the Falcon and Territory. And goodbye, in time, to all Ford Australia manufacturing operations here.
There were enough clues around to give credence to the information: sales of the Falcon and Territory had begun to stall even before the ?great unpleasantness? of the current credit crisis; the adoption by Ford, globally, of a ?One Ford? product strategy seemed to put a ?use-by? date on our local-market-only ?orphan? models; and, circulating the industry was a persistent rumour that Ford Australia President, Marin Burela, was re-examining plans to build the Focus here.
Lastly, with Ford US deep in a desperate battle for its own survival, any prospect of development funds for new models finding their way across the Pacific were next to nil, and sales in the local market, and profitability, were unlikely to provide the development dollars needed from within the Australian operation.
But forget all that now. Today?s announcement by Ford Australia of the stay of execution of the I6, and of its development to meet Euro IV emissions standards, has ?put paid? to any prospect of Ford Australia pulling up stumps.
There is in fact a lot more to this announcement than what immediately meets the eye, and reason for local Ford fans to celebrate.
So, what is behind this announcement?
It can only mean one, or all, of four things:
One, that Ford Australia?s I6 engine has a part to play in Ford?s global ?One Ford? strategy. (It can't be just a short term strategy - something for the interim - you'd have to think; money is too thin on the ground at the moment for that.)
Two, that it is going to be sold somewhere besides Australia (Middle East and North America would have to be on that list).
Three, the I6 has to ?sit? in something ? for that, you would have to be thinking a larger rear-drive platform (so, that?s Falcon and/or Territory safe for the moment).
Four, with Ford US (and each of the US big three) struggling for development capital for new models there, Ford Australia might just have pulled a rabbit out of the hat for its American parent. Bon Voyage then, left-hook Falcon, for the land of apple-pie, silly hats and cheer leaders.
That?s our best guess for the moment. Wait five minutes and we might have another ?best guess?. We live in strange and uncertain days.