Final Falcon flies in
THE moment the godfather of the modern Ford Falcon stood to make his speech about the last ever model, the heavens opened and the charcoal sky cracked with thunder and lightning.
Trevor Worthington, the softly spoken engineer who has overseen or had a hand in the Falcon for more than half its lifetime, pressed on over the noise of the torrential rain pounding the roof.
It was another portent of doom for Australia’s oldest surviving automotive nameplate — on the earlier media test drive, a fourcylinder Falcon blew an engine hose and the aircon conked out on another car. Then a tiger snake found its way into the hotel where media were staying.
The end is indeed nigh for the Falcon. When this model ends production in October 2016, there will be no more.
It’s difficult to gauge just how many people care because we’re certainly not buying Falcons the way we once did. Ford sold just 10,000 last year — down from a peak of 81,000 — and last month was the lowest sales tally in 54 years.
Yet the car that has carried three generations of Australians will always have a place in our hearts and the history books.
The new FG-X will also be remembered as the car that marked the beginning of the end of Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry.
Holden and Toyota also lock their factory gates in 2017, having confronted the same harsh reality as Ford: local manufacturing costs are too high, export opportunities too limited and the market flooded with choices.
The Falcon may be a long way from its glory days as Australia’s top-selling car — it last led the market in 1995 — but it didn’t deserve to die.
This model is without doubt the best yet, even if it lacks some basic mod-cons found on countless imports such as a sensor key, fuelsaving stop-start technology, radar cruise control or blind spot warning. Or such bare essentials as power windows that close with one touch.
The Falcon failed to move with the times. Not even a powerful yet thrifty fourcylinder, developed as part of a wider $230 million green engine initiative, could save it.
Despite having exactly the same performance as the sixcylinder, just 1800 “Ecoboost” Falcons have been sold.
The Federal Government contributed $42 million towards the four-cylinder Falcon and other fuel-efficient models but its own departments bought just seven Ecoboost cars.
Private buyers bought 200 examples, confidential figures show, while fleets have accounted for 150. Ford, with 600 company cars, is the biggest single operator of Ecoboost Falcons.
Contrary to perception, fuel economy is not the reason Australians have fallen out of love with big cars. They have simply embraced small cars, SUVs and utes that better suit their needs.
ON THE ROAD
What’s it like to drive? Exactly the same as the Falcon that’s been on sale for six years. It’s a style over substance makeover.
In hearts and history books: From left, sporting XR6, top-spec G6E and base Falcon