After almost five decades, Ford has killed off its luxury flagships due to dwindling sales. End of road for Fairlane/LTD Glenn Butler, drive.com.au, 10/05/07 One of Australia's longest-running nameplates is dead. Ford today bowed to the inevitable by withdrawing its luxury twins, the Fairlane and LTD sedans, from production in response to falling sales. Ford Australia president Tom Gorman made the announcement this morning in a statement issued ahead of a monthly media briefing "A significant decline in sales of vehicles in the upper large segment over the past few years has meant that local production of long wheelbase variants, primarily for domestic sale only, is currently no longer sustainable," Gorman said. "The emotion of this decision has been very difficult. Sometimes the hard decision and the right decision are the same one." The last Fairlane/LTD will be built either late in 2007 or early 2008, ahead of the arrival of the heavily-revised Falcon - codenamed Orion - around March 2008. The move comes as no surprise to drive.com.au, which revealed that Ford was weighing up the future of the Fairlane and LTD as far back as April 2006 (see related report). Gorman told drive.com.au at the time: "We have to seriously consider whether replacing the Fairlane and LTD is an appropriate place to invest funds going forward". Now, it's a done deal - the Fairlane and LTD are dead. The role of flagship in the Ford line-up falls to the $51,490 Fairmont Ghia V8, effectively a tarted-up Falcon. The decision to axe the Fairlane comes exactly 40 years after the first model emerged from Ford's Broadmeadows factory on the northern outskirts of Melbourne. However, the Fairlane nameplate first appeared in Australia on imported Fords in 1959. "The Fairlane nameplate has been a key part of the Ford line-up since 1967," said Gorman, "when the ZA Fairlane ... created a whole new market segment in the process. " Since then the Fairlane and LTD (added in 1973) have been influential as the flagships of Ford's Australian-made Falcon range, alongside which it has evolved. These long-wheelbase prestige sedans have occupied a special place among affluent Australians and Ford enthusiasts, and the Fairlane has even been a regular vehicle of choice for Australian Prime Ministers. Now, it seems Prime Minister John Howard's decision over his next long wheelbase limousine just got a whole lot easier. Only Holden offers locally produced models in this market segment; the Holden Statesman and Caprice. Ford's Tom Gorman said: "There’s no reason he (the Prime Minister) can’t drive a Territory – perhaps it will suit his lifestyle better in many ways." The demise of Ford's long-wheelbase twins has been a subject of intense speculation in recent years as sales have dwindled from a 10-year high of 4807 in 1999 to just 1155 in 2006. Ford faced increased competition from the rejuvenated Holden Statesman and Caprice, which posted a record 6370 sales in 2000. Even Holden's luxury flagships have been unable to maintain sales against increasing competition from imported models such as the Chrysler 300C. The last time Ford's luxury duo outsold its Holden rivals was back in 1997. But in 2004 Holden responded to softening demand for long-wheelbase models by repositioning the Caprice as a sports luxury car. Ford, which had already dallied with the unconvincing Fairlane G220 sports model, chose not to follow suit. Holden also pursued export opportunities for its long-wheelbase cars in the Middle East and Asia, something out of reach to Ford Australia due to the American-made Ford Crown Victoria. Ford president Tom Gorman says no decision has been made on whether the Fairlane/LTD will return in the future. "It is discontinued, it may work its way back at some time in the future," said Gorman. "The incremental investment is in the range of $150 to $200 million to build a competitive car in that segment." Gorman hinted that the upcoming 2008 model Falcon could feature a more upmarket variant in the mix. "It gives us the opportunity to look at our model mix with Orion. We can do some things here to bring the luxury buyer into our range at that time."