The most odd thing I have heard of for ages!
Joe Kenwright - carsales.com.au wrote:Has Ford been forced into an 11th-hour redesign of its next XR models?...
Although Ford Australia has never committed to an exact 2008 on-sale date for the new 'Orion' Falcon range, Carsales Network sources have confirmed that the projected first quarter onsale date had to be postponed after the XR sports models required a revamp.
Although a Melbourne motor show reveal for the new Falcon is still on schedule for February 29, the full Ford-badged range may not reach showrooms until April while the FPV range is now looking more certain for a May roll out.
The big issue according to our sources was the lack of differentiation and extra attitude of the new sporty XR models (XR6, XR6 Turbo, XR8) over other Falcon and Fairmont models in the new range.
Those who saw the proposed final new XR models -- among them Ford's most senior dealer personnel -- were shocked at the lack of excitement in the design presented.
The Carsales Network has been informed that this reaction was so strong that Ford was forced to go back to the drawing board and spend several million dollars to revamp the new XR models.
After recently-appointed FPV General Manager Rod Barrett hinted that he personally made several changes to the upcoming FPV range, it is now believed that these recent changes to Ford's XR models have forced further changes to the FPV lineup to create some 'breathing space' between FPV models and the Ford XRs.
According to those who saw the original versions of the yet-to-be-released XR models, the new sports models would have compounded a trend that has already hurt Falcon sales badly. Until the 2007 Sydney motor show in October, Ford had not applied any easily discernible exterior changes to the XR models since the BA's 2002 release.
When so many 'user-chooser' company car drivers were opting for an XR over the everyday Falcon, this was a gamble that Ford lost. As late as October 2007 -- and after a major equipment upgrade in the middle of 2007 failed badly to re-ignite XR sales -- Ford was forced to release the most significant XR exterior changes since 2002 to carry the BFII XR models through the last six months of sales.
Ford's failure to keep its important XR models on the boil frequently haunts the company, while Holden promotes its sporty V8 models as a lynchpin of the Commodore's ongoing sales success.
Only this week, Holden issued the following statement: "More than 57,300 Commodores were sold in 2007, which was nearly 10,000 ahead of its closest rival. Strong sales of high-end VE Commodore models such as SS, SSV and Calais V saw V8 Commodore numbers surpass the record of 10,982 set in 2003 by almost 500."
[Ed: note that the sales gap between Commodore and Falcon for 2007 approximates the sales for V8-engined SS, SSV and Calais V alone. That's not to say that Ford don't sell XR8s or V8 Ghias, but it is revelatory. Unless addressed with the Orion generation of Falcon, slower sales for Ford's sporty large car could continue to stymie the Falcon's ability to win back the crown of Australia's best-selling model.]
Because Ford has announced it will drop the Barra V8 option from its Falcon/Fairmont models at the release of the new Falcon, the success of the new XR models has become even more critical. Indeed, unless Ford offers the XR8's BOSS engine as a special option for the next Fairmont Ghia, the XR8 will be the only model left in the Ford range to offer a V8. The Carsales Network has been told that Ford Australia had no choice in this context but to abandon its proposed new XR offering and start again.
The fact that Ford has not committed to a definite launch date seems to indicate that getting the new model right is more important than getting it out there. That the company was prepared to delay the whole range to get its sporty models on target is a welcome indicator that Ford is now listening to its dealers and owners.
There have been other developments within the global Ford range that also exposed the proposed new XR range as too soft.
The mid-2007 Ford Focus facelift, which didn't apply to the European models, introduced the inverted Ford performance lower intake, previously exclusive to Falcon-based XR and FPV models, to all Focus levels. The recently-released Mondeo range also features the same inverted performance lower intake on all models.
Informed sources have advised CN that because a more aggressive variation of this inverted performance lower intake has been applied to all of the new Falcon models, this compounded the lack of differentiation in the proposed XR models.
There were also some within the Ford world who felt that the proposed XR look didn't even build on the aggressive style and presence of the base Mondeo models.
Was the 2007 leaking of the final look for the FPV models (more here) part of this process? Were disgruntled insiders forcing a revamp of the FPV range to create extra breathing space for the XR to accommodate extra sportiness and attitude?
Either way, it is believed that the next series of Falcon-based XR models that will finally go on sale will have "the right stuff" to take the battle to rivals -- and not just the locals.
Coupled with big performance improvements in the turbo six and Boss V8 versions of the XR, the countdown to the February 29 Melbourne motor show reveal can't occur quickly enough for local sports sedan buyers.
The most odd thing I have heard of for ages!
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