FORD AUSTRALIA HAS CONFIRMED that it will not pursue plans to produce the Focus locally, instead opting to invest $230 million ($42 million of which has been contributed by the Federal Government's Green Car Innovation Fund) in the development of three new fuel-efficient powertrains for the volume-selling Falcon and Territory.
Headlining the new range will be Ford's 2.0 litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which is slated to be introduced into the Falcon line-up in 2011 and will be the first RWD application of the high-efficiency powerplant.
With high compression and direct-injection, Ford claims the high-tech four-cylinder will deliver more low-down torque than a 3.0 litre V6 of comparable output.
The EcoBoost engine will also weigh substantially less than the 4.0 litre inline six that presently powers the Falcon, further improving economy.
Fuel consumption is expected to be 20 percent less than the current six-cylinder engine, while carbon dioxide emissions will drop by 15 percent.
The 2.0 litre four-cylinder will be offered alongside the Euro IV-compliant inline six that is due to be introduced mid next year, however there are presently no plans to assemble the EcoBoost engine locally.
There are also no plans to offer the EcoBoost engine in the Territory.
A liquid injection LPG system will be rolled out in 2010 for the Falcon, delivering improved efficiency and more power while possessing similar driving characteristics to the petrol-powered inline-six.
When it arrives in Ford showrooms next year, the LPG-powered Falcon will also be the first car sold in Australia to feature liquid injection LPG technology.
The Territory will get a 2.7 litre turbodiesel V6 from 2011 onward, a powertrain which Ford hopes will help broaden the appeal of the already popular Territory by reducing fuel consumption without sacrificing driveability.
CO2 emissions will be cut by as much as 25 percent compared to the current naturally-aspirated inline six.
For the short term, the turbodiesel powertrain will be exclusive to the Territory. While Ford's chief vehicle engineer Rob Connor said that there was "...no technical reason it couldn't fit in a Falcon," there is no plan to produce a diesel Falcon in the near future.
Marin Burela, President and CEO of Ford Australia, was adamant that the decision not to proceed with the locally-built Focus would not result in any job losses.
"I think we're responding appropriately with the direction that we're taking," Mr Burela said.
"To make a small car absolutely viable in this country, we needed to bring the most competitive levels of opportunity with this vehicle.
"And to do that, we recognised - after studying this to death - that there was absolutely no appropriate way for us to deliver that by producing this vehicle locally.
A rapidly changing economic climate was cited by Mr Burela as the primary reason for cancelling the locally-built Focus, with buyers still clinging to large cars and SUVs like the Falcon and Territory despite the global financial crisis.
"When we made this decision in 2007, it was the right decision at that time.
"The rules have changed completely since then. Ensuring that we have a viable Focus in this country is something that we're absolutely going to deliver."
The Focus will instead be sourced from Ford's Asian assembly plants. It was originally estimated that local Focus production would create around 300 new jobs, however Ian Jones, Federal Secretary for the AMWU's vehicle division, says that in terms of potential jobs, "the employment the Focus was going generate was really on the fringe."
But while Ford workers won't be seeing a new vehicle added to local production lines, Ford Australia remains bullish on the questions of how new car buyers will respond to its upcoming range of fuel-efficient large cars.
"Australians have said to us very clearly: we love the comfort, we love the driving performance of a large car, but we also want sustainability and we want fuel economy," Mr Burela said.
"Quite frankly, I think that what we've got here is a complete spectrum that delivers what Australian consumers are looking for."