here is the full articles from the Daily tele:
IN THE BALANCE: FORD AIMS TO SCALE OLD HEIGHTS
Will this be the car to take Ford Australia back to the top of the large family car market? Kevin Hepworth reports
FOR the past five years Ford has looked on longingly as traditional rival Holden kicked goal after sales goal, dominating the Australian motoring heartland with a string of family Commodores that left little room in suburban garages for the Blue Oval's Falcon.
The nadir for Ford Australia came in September, 1998, with the release of the all-new AU Falcon, the car that was going to recapture the glory days of the '70s and early '80s for the Victoria-based manufacturer. A new look and a new design ethos to take the company into the new millennium.
Almost from the moment the car was revealed buyers turned away, voting with their wallets for the less challenging, more comfortable, conventional look of the Commodore.
Two AU facelifts and an ocean of advertising dollars have done little to stem the hemorrhaging, to the extent that in June this year Holden sold 7548 Commodores to Ford's 4746 Falcons. The tale for the first half of the year is even grimmer with Commodore enjoying a 17,809 car advantage over Falcon.
Finally, claiming a weariness with the cat-and-mouse game of secretly testing a new model under real-world conditions, Ford has pulled the covers off its next generation Falcon and given the public a first look at the car it has been drip-feeding information about for months.
"This is the best Falcon there has ever been," Ford Australia president Geoff Polites declared yesterday at the Melbourne launch of the BA Falcon. "I will say that until the cows come home. This is a car that will lift the bar for local manufacturing on all levels -- design, innovation, safety and production. " But why now abandon the trickle release plan which had promised to reveal the car feature-by-feature leading up to a grand unveiling sometime in September?
"We are building 260 of what we call FEUs or Field Evaluation Units, and those cars have to be tested in the real world," Mr Polites explained. "They are real cars and they need to be run on the open road.
"The problem is that the first time we do that there is going to be somebody in the souvlaki shop over the road who will snap a shot of the car. It will be a Forte base model without wheel covers and covered in dirt and stickers -- that is not the way we want people to see the new car first up.
"This is so much more than a traditional mid-cycle facelift. There is a great deal of newness about this car and we have to get that newness out there." So new is the car, and so desperate is Ford to distance it from the albatross- bedecked AU, that the Barra working name for the model has been transposed to make this the BA Falcon.
As unusual as it is to rename a model in the middle of a life-cycle, Mr Polites offered no apologies for the strategy nor did he back away from the stage-managed, strung-out release program Ford had engaged in for the new car.
"Why not? We have a very special set of circumstances we are dealing with," Mr Polites said. "This is the most talked about launch of the year." Despite that, Mr Polites does not concede that the BA FAlcon will be a watershed for Ford Australia, nor is it a final roll of the dice in combating the runaway success of Holden -- which will have its own new model Commodore in showrooms around the same September date Ford plans on releasing the car.
"This is not a make-or-break car," Mr Polites said. "It is another very important car, but I don't want to be drawn into rating importance of one model against another.
"Everything I do, I believe, is important. I don't like losing at anything. My kids will tell you I don't like losing at tiddlywinks." As far as sales predictions and targets for the BA Falcon are concerned, he has nothing to say. "With any new model we always expect to sell more. Am I going to tell you how many? No." Director of design Simon Butterworth, the man brought in from Jaguar Cars in the UK and charged with giving Falcon wings again, can give you a score of reasons why the design of the BA is "dynamic" and "balanced" and has "proportion" and "presence" but it was the production line test that really convinced him he was on to a winner.
"When we put the first one down the track production line, the level of enthusiasm from the floor was unbelievable," Mr Butterworth said. "When it came off the line we left it sitting there for a couple of hours and people were 10 deep around it.
"Now, those blokes don't bull.... you -- if they don't like something they will tell you. They loved this car. "
Two adversaries limber up
Total Commodore sales
2001 ................... 85,422
2000 ................... 83,610
1999 ................... 85,648
1998 ................... 94,642
1997 ................... 76,849
Total Falcon sales
2001 ................... 53,534
2000 ................... 60,460
1999 ................... 70,084
1998 ................... 68,758
1997 ................... 71,850
FORD'S FALCON HOPES TO CLAW WAY BACK
A FULL-scale car war erupted yesterday when Ford ripped the covers off its new $500 million showroom fighter, the BA Falcon. The "Barra" is the car which Ford will use to battle back from a six-year thrashing by the Holden Commodore , as well as combating an all-new Toyota Camry and updated Mitsubishi Magna.
It won't hit showrooms until September, but Ford decided to strike early to tease buyers with its new look -- and to stall sales of its rivals.
"We think what we're doing is the right strategy," Ford Australia president Geoff Polites said at the first public appearance of the BA in Melbourne.
"It is a clean slate. This is a new car." Designers at Ford have done massive work to try to erase the negatives aspects of the controversial and unsuccessful AU Falcon model.
The BA model is technically a mid-life update for the Falcon, but the work that has gone into the body -- as well as its still-secret engines and cabin -- is more like a full model change.
Only the doors are untouched.
The front and rear ends are new, the roof has been dropped, the wheels are bigger and the suspension is lower. There are dozens of detail changes.
The BA Falcon looks both more muscular and more imposing, with a tough tail and a nose with more impact thanks to new-look headlamps and a bolder grille.