FORD is talking to its suppliers about increasing production volumes for the reborn XR8, the first V8 in a non-FPV Falcon since 2010.
After more than a decade of softening Falcon sales, general manager of marketing David Katic said the company had been caught out by demand for the $52,490, 335kW XR8, which picks up the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and tauter chassis of the limited edition FPV GT R-Spec that was once the performance hero of the range.
Wheels will publish its first drive of the last-ever Falcon on Friday.
“It’s fair to say we’ve under-called the volume,” Katic said. “We’re trying to get a handle now on where we think XR8 demand is. Will it be higher than what we’ve forecast? Absolutely. I think we’ll be a lot stronger than what we’ve forecast.”
It’s a rare problem for Ford Australia, which has been dealing with an unprecedented downturn in large-car sales following a buyer shift to small cars and SUVs.
While arch-rival Holden has managed to bolster sales and keep the Commodore as the fourth best-selling car in the country, the Falcon has been drifting from one month of lowest sales to the next; in October 2014 just 396 Falcons were sold; fewer units than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (862) or Hyundai Veloster (466).
Katic refused to outline sales forecasts for the just-released FG X Falcon, other than to say sales will increase.
“We’re expecting an improved performance,” he said. “There are a whole lot of variables; there’s the size of the large-car segment – we’re expecting our performance in large cars to improve. The amount of consumers looking for large cars will be a key variable.”
He said while fleet and government volumes remain soft, there were more private buyers considering purchasing an FG-X.
Much of it was being driven by the return of the XR8 and the Mustang-inspired nose.
“The consumers left in that [large car] segment, they’re auto enthusiasts and they’re looking for that performance,” Katic said. “We’re very confident in the plan we have.”
Yet despite half of all Falcon sales still being for the XR6 – with sporty add-ons such as lower-profile alloy wheels and a wing over the regular six-cylinder Falcon – Ford still doesn’t offer the four-cylinder turbo EcoBoost engine with a sports bodykit.
Ford has ruled out fitting the 351kW engine from the final Falcon GT – the GT-F – but it has left the door open to use the higher output 310kW turbocharged six-cylinder formerly reserved for the FPV F6 in an upcoming version of the XR6 Turbo.
Holden has announced a series of updates weighted towards its V8-engined Commodore models in response to Ford’s decision to resurrect the XR8 badge for one last run before local manufacturing of the Falcon range ends in 2016. Additions include steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for $52,490 SS-V Redline models.
Even today, more than three in 10 Commodores rolling out of Holden showrooms have V8 engines under their bonnets, plus cosmetic changes including alloy wheels and exterior colours.
The new Falcon officially goes on sale next week.
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