Matt Greenop on motoring

Matt Greenop is editor of Driven magazine

Falcon's fight not over

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After last week's big-car bombshell from Ford Australia, one could be forgiven for thinking the car industry at this end of the planet was in trouble.

This news wasn't unexpected, but as with anything as major as the decision to pull out of car manufacturing in Aussie, it hit those involved in the automotive world hard.

As Ford Australia boss Bob Graziano told a press conference of the demise of the Broadmeadows and Geelong plants, the bulk of the Kiwi and Aussie motoring press was busily testing Holden's new Commodore and literally pulled up on the side of the road and listened to the press conference via the VF's bluetooth system.

And the question on everyone's lips was the obvious "What about Holden?"

Both companies have benefited from big-car bread and butter - the Commodore and its numerous variants, the Falcon and its stilted stablemate the Territory - back in the mists of time there were Valiants and the Leyland P76.

Are big cars dead? No. Are the parent companies of these brands carefully rationalising what they make and where, and trying to get as much product built on worldwide platforms to save on R&D? Absolutely.

Holden's alignment with General Motors in the US on the VF Commodore certainly helped get it over the line, with cost and resource sharing making its production far less taxing on the bottom line. The Commodore is still pretty large but the company has lifted its game with materials, technology and pricing and it can be justifiably proud of the result. It's still the nameplate we've lived with since the comparatively agricultural VB - but its so far advanced from its forebears that it's barely recognisable. Commodore and Falcon will continue to feud in Australia and New Zealand, they'll still scrap over lucrative government contracts and still put the acid on the lease companies that are more likely to point customers towards a frugal four than a six.

Falcon is expected to get a facelift next year and then there's a couple of years until the doors come down on those two plants. But will Ford let its long-surviving Falcon go down without a fight? This is unlikely, and with a "closing down sale" in 2016 to shed the last stock a near certainty, we're looking more at a two-fingered salute than a fluttering white flag.

- NZ Herald

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