RIP Falcon as Ford axes Aus factories
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Ford's Australian manufacturing division has a reputation for doing its own thing, and creating some arguably basic but gutsy rear-wheel drive sedans and 'utes' in the process.
Now its two factories are set to be killed off in 2016 as Ford says it is no longer viable to build cars in Australia and this spells the end of the road for the Falcon and its Territory SUV sibling.
Ford's Aussie manufacturing effort dates back to 1925 when Model Ts started rolling off the line in Geelong. Yet the operation is most known for its Falcon range of sedans, wagons and utes.
FALCON - A FAIR DINKUM AUSSIE
The first Falcon, introduced in 1960, was based on the US model but when the nameplate was dropped from the Star Spangled market in the early '70s, Ford of Australia continued to develop the Falcon on its own, with the XA series being first truly Australian Falcon.
Granted, Ford Australia did continue to raid the parts bins of its international subsidiaries - the 1979 XD model even bearing a close resemblance to the European Ford Granada - but the cars were still engineered and heavily adapted for Australia and its rugged Outback roads.
South Africa also got a taste of the Aussie Falcon when the EF model hit our shores in 1996, although slow sales of its rather bloated-looking AU-series replacement in the early 2000s put an end to the brute's local presence.
The current FG model was introduced in 1998 but was criticized for looking too similar to its predecessor - which was basically a heavily facelifted AU model.
Power, as always, is shoved through the back wheels and while the V8s have been axed, Ford still offers a 270kW turbocharged four-litre six-cylinder XR6 for those who want a bit more than the 195kW normally aspirated options.
WHY THEY PULLED THE PLUG
The writing has been on the wall for Ford’s Australian manufacturing division for quite some time - in fact it has racked up losses of Aus$600 million (R5.6-billion) in the last five years.
Ford Australia chief executive Bob Graziano explained how the crowded market conditions and high manufacturing costs mean it's no longer feasible for the company to continue building cars in Australia:
"Given the fragmented marketplace and the low model volumes that result, we decided that manufacturing locally is no longer viable.
"Our costs are double that of Europe and nearly four times Ford in Asia."
Graziano also explained that the strong Australian dollar was making it harder for domestic carmakers to compete with cheap imports.
Falcon sales in Australia have nose-dived in the last decade and dipped to just 14 036 units last year, from 73 220 in 2003. Sales of the Territory have remained rather consistent since introduction in 2004 - with a tally of around 14 000 last year - but this is not enough to save the factory.
The move, which will see the Geelong and Broadmeadows plants closing, will result in 1600 job losses, although the government is stepping in with an Aus$39 million (R364 million) grant to help the affected communities.
-IOL Motoring Staff