Ford Australia has opened its new Asia Pacific Product Development Centre, with global president and CEO, Mark Fields, using the occasion to announce a 50 percent investment increase in the local operation’s research and development budget.
The new Product Development Centre, housed within Ford’s Broadmeadows campus, formerly the site of its local manufacturing plant, is part of a $50 million spend by the company to upgrade local facilities.
Housed within the new Product Development Centre will be a high-tech 3D virtual reality studio, and in 2017 a new five-axis mill, doubling the facility’s milling area and making the Broadmeadows site the most comprehensively equipped Australian facility capable of designing and engineering vehicles from the ground up.
Mr Fields outlined the crucial role Ford Australia is set to play, not just in the design and engineering of Ford’s future product but also as the company reshapes itself into a future-ready automotive and mobility company.
“Today marks our re-commitment to innovation here in Australia,” Mr Fields said.
“This refurbished facility and the expansion of our other product development facilities in Australia represents, for us, a renewed promise to deliver more exciting, world class vehicles, and also technologies, and I think demonstrates our commitment to continue to make people’s lives better, both here in Australia but also around the world for many years to come.”
Future upgrades for the Asia Pacific Product Development centre will also include a “Maker Space” modelled on a similar concept opened at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters in 2014, allowing employees to collaborate on innovative products.
Mr Fields attributed the Dearborn Maker Space with contributing to Ford patenting more ideas in 2016 than any other automaker, with US patents up 40 percent compared to last year, and up 90 percent compared to two years ago.
As well as the Broadmeadows campus, Ford’s $50 million facility expenditure also includes upgrades to the Lara proving grounds, outside of Geelong, where Ford’s development work takes place.
“If you think about it, in the past six years alone we’ve invested nearly $2 billion in local research and development here in Australia, and we’re partnering at the same time with other Australian innovators to achieve our vision as a company” Mr Fields said.
“We will increase our R&D investment in Australia next year by 50 percent to more than $450 million, and I think this is going to build on Ford as the largest automotive investor - but also innovator - in Australia, and of course as we become the largest auto employer in the country next year with our 2000-plus strong team we have here we’ll also be the only automaker with the capability to lead full vehicle design and engineering from Australia.”
“Our new Asia Pacific Product Development Centre here at Broadmeadows is going to be one part of a product development campus which plays a central role in delivering Ford products and technologies for Australia, but also for other markets, as it links up part of our overall global product development system.”
Federal minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt MP was also at the Product Development Centre opening, taking the opportunity to speak about Australia’s field of talent to meet Ford’s long-term investment in Australia.
“Our strengths are our innovative capability… we have Australian’s who are involved and are brilliant at design, engineering, and all of the related elements, so Australian’s can be amongst the best in the world at innovative thinking and design, and we have to be amongst the best in the world.” Mr Hunt said.