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Ford and Holden will keep station wagons


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Wagons ho, mate!
Toby Hagon | Link to Original Article @ The Age | February 16, 2007
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Last-generation VZ Commodore wagon will be succeeded by a VE-based station wagon

The traditional Aussie wagon appears to have a future, despite a shift away from wagons by a number of manufacturers.

Ford is forging ahead with a wagon version of the next generation Falcon, due in showrooms early in 2008.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman confirmed the wagon would definitely play a part in the new-look Falcon range that's expected to be displayed at next year's Melbourne motor show.

The Falcon wagon will join a Commodore wagon - due late in 2007 - as the only two locally-manufactured wagons based on a sedan.

"We think there's a place for the wagon for the foreseeable future," says Gorman. "We still see us playing in that segment. The Falcon wagon continues to be very strong ... it's a tool of trade vehicle for a lot of people."

The revelation comes as wagon sales continue to slip and buyers turn to four-wheel drives.

Only a few years ago all four local manufacturers - Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and Toyota - offered a wagon in their large car portfolio.

Not only have Toyota and Mitsubishi stopped producing wagons locally, but they have also dropped some of their other wagon offerings, including the Corolla.

Like many manufacturers, Toyota is relying on vehicles such as the RAV4 and next-generation Kluger - due late in 2007 with a two-wheel drive variant - to appeal to those looking for a wagon.

While fleets and families will welcome the return of some fresh wagon metal, it appears they will have two distinct choices with the large locally-made wagons; Holden and Ford seem to be heading different directions in the design and intended function of their vehicles.

Neither company is giving away details of their next generation wagons.

Holden's VE Commodore wagon is expected to deliver a more sporty appearance and driving experience than is typical of locally-produced wagons. The compromise is that it may not have the interior space Commodore wagons have had in the past.

That will come partly because the VE Commodore wagon is believed to be reverting to the regular Commodore platform, rather than the long-wheelbase platform used in the Statesman/Caprice as it has done for almost 20 years.

The Commodore wagon is expected to have a sleeker look inspired by some popular European wagons. One source says its rear design looks similar to the Opel Vectra wagon in Europe; hardly surprising given Opel and Holden are both part of the General Motors family.

The decision to build the Commodore wagon on the short wheelbase also opens the door for a sporty SS version, something that hasn't been around since 2004.

Ford's Falcon wagon, on the other hand, is believed to be more of a tool of trade vehicle, with the emphasis on practicality, price and load-carrying ability.

Whether Ford retains the current wagon's archaic leaf-spring rear suspension - which is cheap to manufacture and good for heavy loads but average for handling - remains to be seen.

But the Falcon wagon is expected to offer impressive interior space aimed at appealing to fleet buyers and those who need load-lugging ability.

Ford will continue to pitch its Falcon-based Territory wagon to families and private buyers, who typically prefer a more stylish vehicle.

Indeed, private buyers - always the most difficult market to attract to the fleet-oriented Falcon and Commodore large car segment - prove important at some stage during a wagon's life span.

According to Santo Amoddio, the managing director of Glass's Information Services (the bible for used car values) used Falcon and Commodore wagons hold their value better than the sedan variants, which have experienced poor resale in recent years.

"There's good secondary demand for those sorts of cars on the used car markets, particularly by families but also with tradesman," says Amoddio, who points out that the boom in four-wheel drive sales has seen demand for second-hand wagons drop.

As for which strategy will prove more effective - Ford's or Holden's - that's up for debate. Or perhaps each will find its place in the more competitive automotive world.
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