AV Article from fridays paper:
FALCON'S SAVING FACE
Daily Telegraph 21-07-2001
Ford Australia boss Geoff Polites is "pretty comfortable" that his designers have done enough to win back buyers disaffected by the ill-fated AU Falcon. But the Ford president says engineering and launch costs associated with the facelift model -- due for release in the second half of next year -- will keep the company profitless until 2003.
"I visited the design studio today and had a long, hard look at the car," Polites says. "I feel pretty comfortable with what we've done.
"You can never be sure with these issues -- my predecessors probably felt comfortable with the AU.
"But research we've done is pretty positive.
"We've done a lot of work on this car."
The second major facelift to the Falcon could determine whether Ford Australia gets the nod from its global parent to build the next all-new Australian big car, due for release in 2004-05.
Certainly, the "half-life" update will have to be quite dynamic for Falcon to get back on terms with its long-time rival, the Holden Commodore.
Falcon lost the 1997 big car battle by a meagre 4993 units after selling 71, 850 sedans and wagons.
The following year, Ford faithful jumped ship in large numbers following the September launch of the AU, with most of the criticism aimed at the rear-end slope-off styling.
The new car finished its first year 25,884 sales behind Commodore.
Last year the gap was 23,150 -- despite a $40 million remake and relaunch as the AUII. In the first six months of 2001, 42,235 Commodores were sold compared with a paltry 24,944 Falcons -- a gap of 17,291.
The Falcon's woes will grow dramatically within months, when the VXII facelift Commodore comes to market to keep sales ticking over.
Polites, understandably, is not giving details of changes to the AUII -- nor the initials by which it will be known.
"It has new front and rear-end sheet metal," he said.
"The car is progressional. It retains the roof and doors."
The Ford chief says the company is on target to meet this year's break-even budget.
Last year Ford Australia lost $16 million -- its first deficit since 1993 -- following a $83 million profit in 1999.
"Our objective is not to lose money this year," he says.
"It's going to be touch and go because we have such enormous engineering expenses going on at the moment relating to the Falcon up-date. Next year we' ve got a lot of launch costs.
"If we can break even this year and next year, we'll be doing OK."
Polites has confirmed he still wants to produce a four-wheel-drive version of the Falcon.
"An all-wheel-drive Falcon would depend on whether we can get the business case up," he says.
"It's not an easy business case to get up.
"We would be applying in an environment in the United States which is not conducive to spending money. The corporation has tightened up a lot.
"I wish I was going last year for approval -- I would have got a lot better hearing."