Nothing will ever replace the Ford Falcon, the four-door, rear-drive sedan that came to symbolise the global design and engineering capability of a tiny southern nation – but one vehicle comes close.
The Ford Ranger has picked up the spiritual baton from the Ford Falcon for with its transformation from workhorse utility to five-seat, quasi-passenger vehicle, one just as likely to be seen shuttling kids to school as it would carting tradies to the morning worksite. Especially in its higher-grade trims, such as the Ranger Platinum.
It's partly why, in 2023, it was the best-selling new vehicle in Australia – much the same way the Falcon was, some years.
In 2023, more new vehicles were sold in Australia than before – 1,216,780 to be exact. Ford sold 63,356 Rangers, taking top spot – 2245 more than Toyota's HiLux. With the HiLux the best-selling new vehicle in Australia since 2016, you could liken it to the Holden Commodore – only in the sense that it's the country's intractable best-seller, rendering others like the Ranger somewhat of an underdog, like the Falcon was before it.
Last year, the HiLux still smashed the Ranger for 4×2 sales – Ford sold 5095 Ranger 4x2s to Toyota's 12,116 – but for 4x4s, the Ranger bloodied the HiLux with 58,261 sales to the Toyota's 48,995. That represented a 35 per cent increase for the Ranger in that category compared to 2022, HiLux 4x4s up just 3.5 per cent.
There are more than a few echoes of Falcon versus Commodore in this titanic sales-chart title fight.
Last year the Ranger comprised 72 per cent of Ford's Australian sales, almost making the Blue Oval locally the Ranger car company – much the same way it was once the Falcon car company. The Falcon's best-selling year was 1995 with 81,366 new examples of the EF finding homes, making it Australia's favourite car that year – and the last time a Ford topped local sales charts.
After Falcon ceased, many of its Australian engineers and designers started working on Ranger. Along with its Everest SUV stablemate, Ranger is developed at the same proving ground on which generations of Falcon were honed, that of course being You Yangs west of Melbourne, opened in 1965 – and still going strong.
Of course, the key difference between Falcon and Ranger – quite aside from one being a sedan, and the other being a ladder-chassis ute – is that while both are designed and engineered in Australia, the Falcon was made in Victoria while Australian Rangers are built in Thailand.
The Falcon also had a long and storied career in the Australian Touring Car Championship, later V8 Supercars, now Supercars, while a Ranger is unlikely to win the Bathurst 1000 anytime soon.
In a performance sense, Ranger Raptor exists, its development led by Justin Capicchiano, the same man who brought us the FG Falcon XR6 and XR8 Sprints. But as a 2473kg vehicle, it'll never stop, go and handle quite like the lighter, lower Falcon.
Conceptually, then, the Ranger is no Falcon – at best, it's a morphing of family sedan, ute and four-wheel-drive into one – but in terms of sales, local engineering, design and development, and increasing popularity with Australian families, it starts to fill a bit of a hole the Falcon left, and certainly when considering Ford Australia's local bottom line.
That's even if it's a hole that simultaneously for so many Australians can never be filled.
Ford Australia model sales for 2023
Ranger – 63,356
Everest – 15,071
Transit – 3160
Escape – 2336
Puma – 2027
Mustang – 1475
F150 – 145
Fiesta – 140
Mach-E – 51
Focus – 39
Total – 87,800