IN A twist of irony, Ford is scrambling to boost production of its swansong Falcon, after an “incredible” public response to the final Australian-made sedan sparked an unprecedented surge in demand.
Downsizing has already started in the run up to the end of Australian Ford production in 2016, but following the unexpected reception, Ford is now faced with the prospect of increasing planned production of the flagship XR8 by approximately 30 to 40 per cent to meet demand.
The facelifted Falcon broke cover just three months ago but has already cemented its place in the hearts of loyal followers with almost exclusively positive feedback directed at dealers, says Ford.
Speaking at the shoot of a promotional film, Ford Australia marketing manager David Katic told GoAuto that initial planned production of Falcon XR8 may have to as much as double to satisfy the market.
“We haven’t even launched the product yet and we’ve been literally bowled over with the amount of interest,” he said.
“The dealers are telling us they need more XR8s than what we have allocated them, which is a great problem to have and we are trying to work out how we can build more of them.
“Our challenge on Falcon, particularly XR8, is how do we expand production because the feedback has been absolutely incredible.
“Probably a 30 to 40 per cent [increase] will meet the demand in the market and I’m probably being conservative.”
As part of an ongoing and aggressive publicity campaign, Ford invited 400 ‘Falcon fanatics’ to take part in a filmed event where XR8 Falcons negotiated a track marked out by the fans.
It took place at Melbourne’s Avalon Airport where 80 of the enthusiast’s cars filled a hangar, with the new XR8 taking centre stage.
“One of the great things as a marketer is having customers who are really passionate about your brand. We asked for 300 to 400 fanatics to come here and we had 800 in 48 hours,” said Mr Katic.
“Since the day we released the photos, the public feedback we’ve got on the car has been absolutely incredible”.
Despite the unprecedented interest in the final Falcon, Mr Katic said that a u-turn on production shutdown or a temporary extension was not a possibility.
“The reality is, all of the factors that drove us to the decision we made, they’re still relevant, but our job and what we are focusing on is making sure we let Falcon go with style, and thankfully it looks like we have the opportunity to do that.”
There may be more treats before Ford finally pulls up stumps however. Mr Katic said if more capacity can be found to produce the required numbers of Falcon, special editions could follow the initial seven sedan and five Ute range.
“Our fans are screaming for them and so we might look at those, but we have to make sure we can build the right amount. It’s no use doing a special edition if you can’t build enough standard cars,” he said.
Last week Holden announced a special Bathurst/Craig Lowndes celebratory version of its Falcon-rivaling Commodore, and Ford won’t want to miss an opportunity to cash-in on its racing heritage in a similar way.
In June, Ford let 72 staff go from its Geelong engine plant with another 127 sacked from the Broadmeadows factory after a call for voluntary redundancies was largely ignored.
The cull followed an announcement in February that 300 jobs would go from the Blue Oval workforce, and the most recent cuts coincided with vehicle production being slashed from 133 to 83 per day.
With an increase to output now required to meet new Falcon demand, Ford may be considering adding to its recently depleted manufacturing staff, or a redeployment of resources from other areas to the large sedan line.
The new simplified Falcon sedan range starts with the entry-level and simply named Falcon priced at $35,900 before on-road costs, and tops out with flagship 5.0-litre supercharged XR8 with a price tag of $52,490.
Tradie-friendly Utes kick off from $29,390 for the cab chassis with the range capping off with the $39,910 XR6 Turbo. An XR8 version of the Ute has not been announced.
Original Article by Daniel Gardiner at Go Auto
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