Current situation is that Dearborn in North America will lead Ford new Global RWD architecture but the signals are still not very clear coming out of Ford.
Ford has recently been in a quandary. While GM has been forging ahead with their Australian sourced Global Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) platform, Ford has been considering how they can consolidate their RWD architectures. Over the next 4/5 years many of Ford’s RWD vehicles will be in need of replacement. The Mustang, Lincoln Town Car, Crown Victoria and the Aussie Falcon share a general ethos in that they are based on large rear wheel drive platforms requiring hefty engines. To many it has been a puzzling situation why Ford would continue to develop these vehicles on different floorpans when they could unite development teams and cut costs.
It seems that someone at Ford has finally smelt the coffee as we now understand that these aforementioned vehicles will now share similar architecture for their next major overhauls. Crucially though we now believe that development work will be based out of Dearborn and not Australia as the motoring press had first though. Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP in Birmingham said "You don't save any money with Australian dollars anymore, there are economies of scale in engineering too”. With the weakening US dollar reflecting a stronger Australian dollar the economies of scale have shifted away from Australia and back to the US. According to Ford, Australia will continue to play a major role in the development of the Global RWD platform. Currently this is the best information we have although Fords local Australian Manager of Public Affairs, Sinead McAlary, has essentially denied Ford of North Americas claims saying "It's too early to speculate on that". Time will tell but speculate we must.
What does this mean for Ford as a company? Clearly there are obvious synergies to be formed which will save Ford a huge chink of cash, platform sharing is not new for most manufacturers but Ford of North America appear to be very late to the game. Even Ford of Europe has been platform sharing for years. So costs and complexities will reduce and by pooling engineering resource the effective quality of products should improve.
And for the Customer? The US customer will benefit greatly. The current crop of large RWD vehicles Ford offer is at best mediocre with the possible exception of the Mustang. Even the Mustang struggles to compete in real terms though as it still runs around with a live rear axle and in some guises 500hp! However, the Falcon saloon runs an independent rear suspension system which is light years ahead of the Mustang. The Australian market in total is barely one million units per annum in size (roughly 50,000 of which are locally produced Ford’s) but Ford Australia still manages to produce a wide variety of indigenous Falcon vehicles. These vehicles vary from normal saloons and wagons to sporty pick-ups which are colloquially referred to as “utes”. Until recently even a long wheel base premium vehicle was sold and arguably the best product Ford Australia make is the crossover Territory. After Holden’s success in the States with Pontiac branded vehicles, could we see some FPV products pounding the asphalt in North America? How about a high performance Ford Ranchero to rival the Pontiac G8 ST Ute, (see our fabricated Ranchero image)? Perhaps even a turbo 6 cylinder of the same ilk as the F6 Utes in Australia. The Australian customer will also benefit greatly from US sourced V8 engines and arguably the 6 cylinder engines. The local Australian inline six may be old but it is still very competitive in the market. Also a reintroduction of the large luxury Ford may be on the cards in the form of the Interceptor concept and an Aussie spec Mustang might work if a RHD version could be engineered.
Overall both Australian and American customers will benefit and Ford as a company should save a packet which is something they will welcome with open arms.