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Ford Falcon – The Last Hoorah

Transcript of interview

David:                          The last hurrah, the last significant upgrade of the Ford Falcon before it is assigned to the graveyard in October 2016 has been released unto the Australian market. A few tweaks to its driving performance and a lot of features for each model.

Let’s get a brief review in and some reflections on the history of the car from Brent Davidson from the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury. Brent you’ve been to the launch, it’s not an insignificant upgrade is it?

Brent Davidson:          David it’s what most would call a major facelift if the car was going to live on into automotive perpetuity. They spent about $103 million I think was the official figure and yeah they’ve done a very good job of it. The model realignment, lots of extra equipment, brought one back, killed one off. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on and the sad fact is we’re only going to enjoy this car for just a little less than two years.

David:                          I think the looks are good. Some might say the commodore looks like a blown up hot wheels car with the flared guard.  I think of it as positive a mature luxury car, it’s not just the sort of tacky sort of general runabout. It’s got a nice sort of look about it particularly from the front.

Brent:                          You’re right, it is a less ostentatious car and that’s not really a bad thing you’re right.  It all hangs off a trapezoidal grill which I have to say really suits the Falcon. And then in the design they’ve been able to play with things like different headlights depending on the model, under body, spoilers, under bumper spoilers I should say.

Yes the car puts a really solid look forward and the finish is really nice down the sides. It goes back to the horrid AU Falcon from about a decade ago that everybody basically turned their noses up it.

David:                          I think that was one of the great failures of all design. The back of the new car looks a little SAAB like I thought.

Brent:                          Yeah I’ll go with that.  I hadn’t given it that much thought other than it does look very clean, very aero.

David:                          Fuel consumption improvements and slightly improved responsiveness at the wheel I believe.

Brent:                          Yeah, they fitted a new gear box so we won’t go ahead with all sorts of numbers. But it’s a 6 speed ZF transmission and yes improvements are there. They’re not huge gain improvements in fuel consumption, you’re probably talking about half a litre per 100 kilometres sort of the thing.

But nevertheless there’s a gain and the car doesn’t lose anything from it.

David:                          I think they’ve got a better drag resistance and low resistant tires I think are part of it.  I think basically you get the features of the model for the price of the previous model above in other words, a lot of the features have sort of come down to the previous model one down but without a price increase.

Brent:                          Well David it probably goes a little further than that in fact. Because they’ve killed off one model and brought in two others, and so once we have the regular Falcon back no G, no E, no nothing, no pack drill. What they’ve done is they’ve pulled something like between $1350 and almost $10,000 out of the pricing depending on what car you want.

Also, the performance folks will love this, the XR8 is back in the Falcon model line for the first time in five years and it’s got a price that won’t actually have people gasping and falling over. It comes about to $52,000 to $53,000.

David:                          You’re getting a lot of good bang for your buck particularly with the XR8 of course..

Brent:                          You can go straight into the regular petrol Falcon for $35,900 which is $1,335 cheaper if you get from the G6 which is no longer with us, would have been. There’s savings right through the range.

David:                          They’re certainly pushing rather hard. The Falcon’s had a great role in the history of Australian motoring that we could reflect on now that it’s on the way out. The XK first released on September 1960, it actually had the problem that it wasn’t well suited to Australian conditions and they had to Australianise the suspension and things quite a lot, didn’t they.

Brent:                          Yeah look it was a North American car built in Canada and you’re right, it had the North American suspension. It was custard soft basically and yes it did take a major rework. It took Ford a long time to get over that, it was well into the 60’s probably ’66, ’67, the launch of the XR in fact before Ford actually got over that whole stigma of the first cars.

David:                          They had to hadn’t they. They tried that reliability trial where they drove it flat out for over a week and did 70,000 miles.

Brent:                          Yeah but the truth behind that story is that four of the five cars actually rolled.  They got back on their wheels that was no problem but yes they achieved their record, they averaged 71 miles per hour which is about 125 kilometres per hour for five days or six days or something. It’s the stuff of legends. There are some interesting back stories to that one.

David:                          The XA series in 1972 I believe it as the first built in Australia completely. I thought it was actually a good looking model, the XA.

Brent:                          Yeah it was, it had that big sweeping grandeur that was happening in that time period.  And it really translated was into two cars, the Fairlane which is even bigger and the two door version.

David;                          I love that.

Brent:                          So did I.

David:                          I loved that car, I think particularly with wide wheels like the Charger you’ve got to put wide wheels on them, with that they looked very, very good.

Brent:                          Folks this is David bringing out his inner lad.

David:                          They also had a panel van there which I had one of those too.

Brent:                          Oh dear David it’s getting worse stop it.

David:                          Brings out the inner lad in you no doubt.  And of course they went to the mind blowing HOs where they were racing at Bathurst.  I think among other things the Falcon Holden honest in some regards although in those early years they still were producing some pretty ordinary cars. The HD Holden and things like that were pretty ordinary but nonetheless ultimately they provided the competitor at Bathurst, and the HO’s were fantastic performance cars.

Brent:                          Let’s not forget too at one stage Falcons and related products actually outsold the premium Holden cars the Commodores and their offspring.  Ford actually climbed to the top of the tree on the back of Falcon. It was a very successful brand name for them.  It’s 50 plus years and we’ll have that name no longer in this country.

David:                          Of course Ford got above Holden in sales when Holden went to the Commodore which was a smaller car and I think it was the early 80’s and the Falcon particularly dominated the car sales in Australia. As you say helped Ford be number one, as a major car.

I thought the XD was rather ugly and it went quite through a lot in the AU as you mentioned, really they got that design so horribly wrong. In some ways that somehow cemented it’s inevitable decline really.

Brent:                          Yeah look, they did a great job of coming back from AU.  We can’t discount VA we can’t forget VF but I think by the time those cars were here it was an only a matter of time for the Australian car industry.

I can recall sitting with a group of Australian journalists in a small cafe in Germany a few years ago.  Basically taking a book on when Ford would declare that it was leaving Australia as a manufacturer.

David:                          See that’s the important point too, I think you were talking to their Chief Executive Officer just a few days ago about that particular point isn’t it. About them not leaving Australia but just stopping the Falcon.

Brent:                          Rob Graziano and he was telling me that the biggest problem he has in the next couple of years is convincing everyone, convincing the entire country, that Ford as a brand is not leaving the country. It is simply that local manufacturing of Falcon will stop.

In 2017 you’ll be able to go into a Ford dealership, they’ll all still be open. And buy your Mustang, or your Mondeo, or  your Everest, or your whatever in fact, Ranger truck.  And it will be there, the whole company will be there. There will just be no local production that simple.

David:                          Because the thing that Ford never did with the Falcon was really sell it overseas. They never managed to get a market. There was some suggestion that Ford America never let them do that, suggested that Ford would attack other markets with their products made elsewhere.

Brent:                          There are a handful of cars sold to New Zealand,  a handful in South Africa, I think a few went to Hong Kong. But you’re right as an import car it never, ever flourished. Look I don’t know the politics behind it, I do know that there was talk of getting the car into the States in one form or another but the auto unions basically put the kybosh on that.

Funnily enough Holden had very similar problems when it tried to get Commodore in there, but it actually persevered and succeeded to a point where it was marketed as a Pontiac. And then on the second attempt it was marketed as a Chevrolet.

No really good solid export program for Falcon. And mores the pity because it would work wonderfully well in a country like the US, a country like Canada. That big six cylinder engine just keeps on giving.

David:                          It is a goodie. Brent lovely to talk to you, thank you very much for your time.

Brent:                          David it’s always my pleasure.

David:                          That’s Brent Davidson from the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury talking about the last-

 

 

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