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Ford visit strengthens Falcon export rumours

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Ford visit strengthens Falcon export rumours

Bruce Newton,, 08/06/07

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Ford Falcon

Rumours the Falcon could have global appeal are gathering pace with the imminent arrival of Ford's global product boss, reports BRUCE NEWTON.

Ford Motor Company’s global product development chief Derrick Kuzak

A Ford executive with a key role in determining the long-term future of the Falcon will pay his first-ever visit to the company's Australian product development facilities next week.

His Australian visit has strengthened rumours that Ford Australia could export Falcons to key markets or supply technical know-how with large, rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

Derrick Kuzak is Ford Motor Company’s global product development chief, a role he has fulfilled for only seven months.

Reporting directly to Ford's global president and CEO Alan Mullaly, his task is to integrate the company’s vehicle design and engineering process.

During a two-day visit, Kuzak will tour Ford’s Melbourne and Geelong design and engineering facilities as well as the nearby You Yangs proving ground.

He will also sample a range of vehicles including the 2008 Falcon, codenamed Orion, which is due to be unveiled next March.

“Derrick is very important to Ford globally and Ford Australia and he will be given a thorough briefing regarding our facilities and products,” confirmed Ford Australia's public affairs manager, Sinead McAlary.

In essence, Kuzak is sorting out which arms of the global automotive giant will play what role in developing which vehicles.

Obviously, the recommendation he makes on which division takes the lead in developing a new generation of rear-wheel-drive vehicles is of vital interest here.

Ford Australia - which builds Falcon and the Territory 4WD-style wagon – is one of the few Ford divisions globally to have credible rear-drive experience, in much the same way Holden has positioned itself in the General Motors world as a rear-drive specialist.

In the United States, Ford builds a number of rear-wheel-drive models, including the Mustang sports car and the ancient, long-wheelbase Crown Victoria (and its Mercury and Lincoln derivatives).

Ford Australia is already a recognised design and engineering centre for the corporation, helping develop the Fiesta sedan for India and the T6 light commercial vehicle for global markets.

If Ford Australia gets the lead role - or sizeable share - in a future rear-drive program, it should boost the chances of retaining a local manufacturing presence in Australia.

It could even lead to the return to production of the Fairlane, which is being discontinued in 2008 because of low local demand and a lack of export markets to sustain it.

No doubt Ford Australia boss Tom Gorman will point out to Kuzak that cross-town rival Holden is already General Motors’ global homeroom for affordable rear-wheel-drive architecture. The VE Commodore and the technology that underpins it is being exported globally.

The impetus for that came from Bob Lutz, essentially Kuzak’s opposite number at GM. And while Ford Australia is playing down the importance of Kuzak’s visit, the fact is that Lutz backed a global role for Holden after touring its facilities in February 2002, viewing early VE designs and sampling vehicles at the Lang Lang proving ground.

Have your say on our Drive blog:

Ford’s 2008 Falcon has to be a ripper

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Ford's Bob Lutz: Derrick Kuzak



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