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Ford?s Lara Proving Ground Turns 50; Now Key To Ford Australia?s $2billion R&D Investment Photo:
 
 
Tim O'Brien | Dec, 09 2015 | 1 Comment

Ford Australia’s 930 hectare You Yangs Proving Ground, is having a birthday, it turns 50 this week.

To celebrate the occasion, Ford is putting its newest arrival on show (and around the track), the box-fresh all-new 2016 Ford Mustang, alongside an original 1967 Ford Falcon XR GT.

And why the XR GT? It’s to do with that “Mustang-bred” marketing catchcry that signalled the car’s arrival, and it was, in fact, the first Australian-developed GT Falcon engineered and tested at the Lara facility.

“The advertising catchphrase promoting the 1967 Ford Falcon XR GT was ‘the Mustang-bred Falcon’ so it’s appropriate to have the 1967 car as part of our celebrations,” Ford President and CEO, Graeme Whickman, said.

Now a key part of Ford Australia’s on-going investment in research and development for Ford’s global operation in the Asia Pacific region (along with the $27 million Geelong Research and Development Centre and the Campbellfield engineering facility), the Proving Ground played a lead role in the development of the Ford Everest and Ranger, as well as the development of the Fiesta-based Figo for the Indian market.

Ford Australia’s R&D capability, and the massive investment it has made here, is a key part of the repositioning of the company post-2017, when manufacture of the Falcon and Territory is to cease.

“In 2015 alone, Ford has spent around $300 million on R&D, bringing to $2billion the amount of money spent on R&D over the past six years,” Whickman said.

While jobs will be shed from manufacturing, Ford Australia will be the largest automotive employer in the country post-2017, thanks to its large research and engineering facilities in Campbellfield, Geelong and Lara.

The Proving Ground alone employs around 300 engineers, technicians and support staff. Aside from its research and testing facilities, the proving ground has more than 80km of test surfaces covering a range of roads, corners, braking test, and its high-speed oval loop.

When the You Yangs Proving Ground opened in 1965, its first torture-test was of the 1965 Falcon XP sedan which was subjected to 112,600 kilometre (70,000 mile) endurance run, setting 49 Australian endurance records at the time.

And every Falcon and Territory since has been put through its paces there.

And now, on a day following the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of the allocation of AUD$1.1 billion to innovation-based research and development, Ford Australia celebrates 50 years of R&D and its future role in research and engineering with Ford’s global product development activities.

XR GT image courtesy of Flickr user, Sicnag

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