Why Falcon dare not fail
THE first press drive of the FG Falcon got me thinking about the car’s place in Australian motoring. Despite what Ford Australia executives have been saying, this is a make-or-break car.
It arrives at a time when Falcon sales are at a historical low, when customers have turned away from traditional Aussie family cars, when the Toyota Corolla has just completed a first-quarter reign as Australia’s favourite car ahead of the VE Commodore, and when there are more questions than answers about Ford’s future and local manufacturing in general.
This year could easily emerge as a watershed, thanks to the end of local Mitsubishi manufacturing, a second year of $1 millionplus sales, accelerating change in showroom tastes and — perhaps most important — a Federal government investigation into the industry and its support program beyond 2010.
Against that background, the FG Falcon is critical.
The new Ford must do well to give Ford Australia any chance of continuing local production of the Falcon after it begins building the compact Focus at Broadmeadows, it must hit the sweet spot in showrooms despite the awful results for the BF Falcon in the past 18 months, and it must prove the Ford team can still sell cars.
Early signs are good because Ford has done a lot of deep engineering improvements to the FG. But we wonder how the relatively mild body makeover will go. Some people are already saying the FG is not different enough from the BF.
The arrival of the FG gave me an excuse, together with the need for some weekend ute action, for a reminder drive in the VE Commodore.
It showed all the things I like about the homegrown Holden, from its brilliant ride and handling to the comfy cabin, impressive equipment and a look that is different.
But I also remembered why I hate the cheapie centre console, how the SS gauges are hard to read and — the big one — how Holden has created huge blind spots with its wide-section windscreen pillars and small rear-view mirrors.
Tough as old utes: the Holden VE SS ute — brilliant ride, fine handling. Centre console? Forget it.