With its warm reception in the press, plus all the pre-release hype, huge interest was generated in the Ford Falcon. Ford dealers were swamped with eager lookers and buyers. The marketing people had forecast selling 30,000 units in the first year and, if early signs were accurate, that would not be enough. Launched to the accompaniment of an expensive advertising campaign that stressed the car was "Australian -- With a World of Difference."
Ford Australia execs and the dealer body were full of confidence in their new baby especially since they had been able to price it at just £30 ($67) more than Holden and it boasted more than 90 percent local content. As was customary at the time, the Falcon was available in standard and Deluxe trims, the major differences amounting to little more than chrome trim.
And then the wheels fell off, literally. Front suspension ball joints were prone to collapsing, and gearboxes and clutches were proving incapable of withstanding the demands of Australian motorists and conditions. Hundreds of cars had to have these components replaced, some under warranty, some not. Dust sealing was also a worry, and it was not too many winters before it became obvious that Ford's body rust protection processes were sadly ineffective, too. Tales of unreliability began to circulate through the motor industry and were quickly seized upon by the media.
Calls to Dearborn were met with astonishment. Nothing like what was being described had occurred during prototype development. Part of the problem was the speed with which the Falcon had been developed after the sudden shift away from the Zephyr; no time was spent testing the car under local conditions. Unfortunately Ford Australia executives had relied upon the U.S. prototype program being sufficiently demanding to have uncovered any major design weaknesses in the Falcon.
"Falcon reliability was a serious problem," said Max Gransden, who was regional sales manager for New South Wales when the car came out. "We experienced front suspension and clutch problems from day one. The XK sedan was introduced with boulevard ride and [six-inch-wide] tires as standard equipment. The combination was totally unsuitable for Australian conditions.
"While the 144-cid engine was a reliable unit, it lacked performance, which caused considerable customer complaints."
The well-publicized reliability problems affected sales of the Ford Falcon. Read about how these problems hurt the bottom line at Ford on the next page.
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