In announcing the shutdown from 2016 of its Australian manufacturing operations, there is good news among the more sombre announcements from Ford Australia of job losses, of heavy financial loss and of an icon axed.
While it will cease building cars, Ford Australia CEO, Bob Graziano, committed to further investment in Ford Australia’s product development facilities.
Over the past year, and for the second year running, Ford Australia invested more than $200 million dollars in the research and engineering of a range of Ford's global products, and in its Virtual Reality Centre design facility in Campbellfield.
Last year, Ford Australia’s total investment in research and development here topped $270 million dollars, bringing the company’s total R&D investment in Australia during the past six years to more than $1.9 billion – the largest of any carmaker in Australia.
Ford Australia’s design centre at Campbellfield, placed to serve the Asia Pacific Region and a hub for satellite facilites in South Africa, India and China, is one of only three such facilities across Ford's global operation.
The other centres being in Cologne, Germany; and Dearborn, USA.
It employs more than 900 engineers and designers (including those in the satellite facilities), and is linked through Ford's 35 supercomputers located at Dearborn. While headquartered here, the new Design Centre was developed under Ford’s ‘One Ford’ global product strategy.
“Ford Australia will continue to be known as a centre of excellence in this space,” Mr Graziano said today.
This will come as a relief to the designers and engineers employed at Ford Australia’s research and design facility.
Well known, of course, is the key engineering role Ford Australian engineering played in the development of the Ranger, the Ford Figo and, more recently, the EcoSport.
Also tempering the news of the loss of the Falcon and Territory is Ford Australia’s plans to accelerate “the introduction of new products for Australian customers”.
“The breadth of our line-up will increase by more than 30 percent, ensuring we continue to offer our customers an outstanding range of cars, SUVs and light trucks long into the future,” Mr Graziano said.
This 30 percent increase in the number of new vehicles to be offered in Ford showrooms to Australian customers by 2016, is “in addition to already announced new versions of the Ford Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory, as well the new Ford Kuga, Ranger and Focus”.
Holden Boss Mike Devereux, in responding to Ford’s announcement today, recommitted to Holden production until at least 2022.
“Despite Ford's announcement to end local manufacturing, we believe the industry can survive in Australia and has already adjusted in large part given Ford's relatively low production volumes.
“Holden set out a 10-year manufacturing plan that was agreed with the Australian Government in 2012, based on the economic and market conditions at that time.
“That plan would see Holden invest a billion dollars in this country and secure production of two all-new global vehicles out to 2022,” Mr Devereux said.
- Tim O'Brien
TMR Managing Editor