Guys, the way I see it, it will have to be around March/April 2004 for a number of reasons:
1. Ensure Ford keeps the sales momentum of the BA Falcon going. Most manufacturers work on an 18 month lifecycle, which means interest in a 'new' car begins to dwidle around this time. This puts release of the BAII around the March/April 2004 timeframe.
2. To ensure a wide spread of vehicle release dates. As Territory will be released around the June/July 2004 timeframe, Ford would want to ensure that the BA II does not take the "spotlight" away from the all new Territory model which must sell at least 25,000 just to break-even.
3. Ford will NOT want to go head-to-head with Holden in the release of the VZ Commodore. The new VZ will have the HFV6 (190kW+ guaranteed), five speed auto transmission (same as that used in the BMW), revised IRS and other driver assist technology. In fact, Ford would prefer to put the all new Territory up-against the VZ as a complete new alternative to buying a standard sedan (ie..VZ Commodore). If Ford is smart, then it will also want to beat Holden to the title for the first locally manufactured car to get an auto transmission with greater than 4 gears. This will also take the sparkle out of Holdens Sep/Oct 2004 release of the VZ, which would then be considered more a mere "catch-up" model.
4. Ford is getting alot of critisism about the weight and quality of the BA Falcon. Ford needs to set this straight by releasing a BA series II (asap!)and ensuring these issues are closed, both in the minds of potential retail buyers (perception) and fleet buyers who only care about resale value. If these problems are not fixed, we could easily see the resale of the Falcon plunging again as more BA's come out of warranty periods, maintenance goes up, and resale comes down.
My bet is around the March/April 2004.