Fi­nal Fal­con flies in

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.