Ford has killed off its long-running large car flagship, the Fairlane and its LTD variant.
Production of the long-wheelbase versions of the current Falcon will stop before the launch of the next-generation Falcon, dubbed Orion, early next year.
Ford Australia president, Tom Gorman made the announcement in Sydney today.
Gorman said the decision to stop production of the Fairlane and LTD was made here in Australia, and was prompted by falling sales and high development costs for an Orion-based new model.
"It's really a result of market dynamics, more than anything else," he said.
Even a cursory look at sales volumes for the Fairlane and LTD show their fall from favour. In 1997, combined Fairlane and LTD sales reached 4519. By 2000, they'd fallen to 3076. Last year, combined sales were 1158. Last month, Ford sold 99 Fairlanes and only three LTDs; and most of those sales were to rental firms, Tom Gorman said.
The other part of the equation that wasn't adding up for Ford, he said, was the need to invest in development of an Orion-based long-wheelbase car for the Australian market when local interest in such cars was decreasing. Without an export program for a long-wheelbase variant of the Orion, the sums wouldn't add up.
Gorman said the development costs associated with a new long-wheelbase model would be between $150-$200million.
"If you're gong to spend that much money to have a world class vehicle, you have to have some volume to support it," he said. "The whole market segment isn't even what we used to sell. So the dynamics have changed so much that it doesn't make any sense.
"So, rather than continue down that path, obviously we're going down multiple different paths of bringing in a lot more imported product, extending brands and launching some new brands, particularly Mondeo, this year."
Fairlanes first came here as imports from the US in the 1960s. Ford started building them locally in 1967, and added the LTD in 1973.
"It's hard to say goodbye to someone that you've loved for so long," Tom Gorman said. "But the market has changed so much that we have to be responsible in the market environment. We're running a business, and that's what we have to do."
However, Gorman left the door open for Ford to again build a long-wheelbase car. "Never say never," he said. "It may resurface somewhere in the future. And, if it does, that'd be great."
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