Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gazing Into Ford's Crystal Ball

As I peer into the crystal ball it appears that there’s a possibility Ford Australia may be able to throw a lifeline to the parent company in Dearborn, Michigan. It’s a prospect that could more than make up for the death of indigenous manufacturing at Broadmeadows.
Crown Victoria Cab
First, however we have to take a trip to the USA. Any regular visitors to America will be aware of the huge business Ford Motor Company enjoyed with its sales of Ford Crown Victorias to taxi fleets and police departments, and also the great sales generated by the ubiquitous Lincoln Town Car as ‘livery’ cars (aka Limos).
Lincoln Town Car

All that business dried up overnight when Ford decided it would no longer make the clunky old Crown Victoria/Town Car, because the design was dated (body on frame) and needed too much investment to reinvent.

Lincoln MkT 'limo'
Also, Ford was confident it could convince the markets that it could effectively replace these cars with a reworked Lincoln MkT SUV. Trouble is the buyers didn’t want to know. The taxi/police/livery markets simply said: “No way.”
Taurus Police Interceptor
The Taurus-based FWD Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) received a similarly lukewarm reception.

Let’s now hop on a jet to Europe, where Ford has never had a ‘big’ car in its lineup since the death of the unloved Scorpio. There are quite a few opportunities for ‘big’ cars in Europe, and the UK, but they are so limited that Ford of Europe could never justify the investment.
Now, back to Australia, and we arrive to find that Ford Australia’s designers and engineers have done an outstanding job designing and engineering the Figo small car, the Ranger ute and the Territory SUV. That’s not to forget the exceptional job it did on the current Falcon, operating on the tiniest of budgets. Make no mistake, in engineering terms these products are world class. And, all done by the talented team Down Under.
Okay, you couldn’t really sell Falcon in global markets, because despite the fact it looks and drives so well, it really is clunky by contemporary global standards, and should have been wholly replaced years ago. However, a new Rear Wheel Drive platform designed and engineered by the same people who brought you Figo, Ranger, Territory and Falcon could just be the product Ford needs in a number of markets.
2012 Taurus - what next year's Falcon could look like
As one of my wise friends points out, the current Taurus can’t be sold as a Falcon right now, because there’s no RHD version.

But, what if the current car could be eventually replaced by a new platform engineered for RHD, LHD, FWD, RWD, AWD, SWB and LWB and developed by the Ford Australia engineers.
Like the Ranger, it could be all done in Australia, and made and sold in a number of global markets. It could even be sold in Australia as a Falcon, except local manufacturing may be a past glory by that time.
I'm certain Ford Motor Company does not want to jettison the big investment it has in Australia, not only in design and engineering skills, but also manufacturing experience - but it could bring Ford Australia into line with Alan Mulally’s ‘One Ford’ policy, by harnessing those skills and experience across a single platform development.
This concept may just be my own personal dream, but I would be thrilled if it came to pass. It could make up for management missteps of the past, in one decisive stroke.
Just imagine, Ford Australia could provide a replacement for Crown Victoria taxi and police cars, Town Car limos, Scorpio, Falcon and whatever else a RWD platform could become - and you know it would be a globally-competitive product if it was done in Australia. I hope so!


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