Car industry observers say Ford's days of making cars in Australia will be numbered once the next version of the Falcon rolls off the production line.
On Tuesday, at two of its plants in Melbourne and cut production of its cars to meet falling demand.
The Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore were among Australia's most popular cars 15 years ago.
But Australian Automobile Association executive director Andrew McKellar says those kinds of large cars are now out of fashion.
"Four-wheel drives, SUVs: they're now 27 to 28 per cent of the market.
At the same time, large cars are down to only about 5 per cent of the market," he said.
"So the old model, where the local manufacturing industry focused on the larger car segment, that's no longer viable." But while Holden has taken steps to future-proof its local operations by starting production of a smaller car, Ford ditched plans to make a smaller car in Australia several years ago.
Richard Johns, who was involved in the rationalisation of the car industry in the 1980s and now runs the consultancy Australian Automotive Intelligence, says it is not easy for car makers to switch to production of smaller cars.
"A lot of people think that'd be easy for car makers just to change over, say, stop producing the Falcon and produce the Focus, but it's not that simple, because there's an investment of - in the full car line - of somewhere between a half a billion and a billion dollars, in starting a new car," he said.
He says more often than not, the cars Australians are buying are made overseas.
"SUVs, with the exception of the Ford Territory, which is made here, and the smaller cars have typically been imported, particularly from Japan and Korea, although European brands such as Volkswagen are making strong comebacks in the Australian market," he said.
No longer supportive? Motoring expert Ged Bulmer says some quarters believe the only thing keeping Ford operations alive in Australia is government support.
He says rumours have been swirling for years that Ford's head office in Detroit is no longer supportive of manufacturing in Australia.
"There have been opportunities for Detroit to, if you like, throw Ford Australia a lifeline, by for instance allowing it to integrate the successful Territory into its global sales mix, or by allowing it even to sell Falcons into other markets," he said.
"That opportunity's not been offered, so I think it is fair to say that Detroit hasn't been as supportive of Ford Australia as it could have been, or should have been." But Mr Johns says it is unlikely head office let its assets in Australia continue on with the status quo, knowing that they would receive government support.
"I think that is far too cynical, because the levels of assistance in Australia today are very low for the automotive industry," he said.
"Tariffs have reduced from 57.5 per cent, plus other factors which stop the inflow of cars to where many imported cars are coming into Australia on zero tariffs today and the maximum tariff is 5 per cent." As well as the Falcon, Ford also produces the Territory four-wheel drive in Australia.
It sells well, but Mr Bulmer doubts Ford could continue to keep its operations open by just producing the Territory alone.
"They're already winding their production back quite significantly with this most recent announcement of job cuts," he said.
"So if you take Falcon out of that mix, the line rate for the day would be getting perilously close to being unsustainable." Mr Bulmer says it is possible Ford is leaving itself open to stopping production in Australia.
"There has been ongoing speculation for a number of years that this latest Falcon will be the last Falcon produced here in Australia and Ford has only committed to an update on that vehicle," he said.
"Beyond that they haven't committed to a new model, which Holden has done.
"So I think if you read between the lines, it does look like they're certainly leaving themselves room to, at sometime in the future, stop local production." Mr Johns says Ford's prospects in Australia are not good.
"In the longer term, unless they can have a vehicle which sells much more strongly than the Falcon's been selling in recent times, then I think it would be very hard to justify continuing production," he said.
Ford Australia did not respond to PM's request for comment.