Ford will announce new funding for its Melbourne-based product development operations later this year, with investment set to further support the facility’s global-focused future and its transition to a post-manufacturing era following the end of local production in October 2016.
Ford Asia Pacific product development vice president Trevor Worthington revealed plans for the additional resourcing while speaking at today’s Cars of Tomorrow conference in Melbourne, part of the Victorian Government-backed Australian Automotive Week.
“We’re going to make an announcement in the third quarter of this year around what we’re doing with the layout and the software we’re bringing in and the hardware that will be brought in to support it,” Worthington said.
Talking up the “fully capable global facility” that has a key role in growing engineering and design capabilities and leading quality, cost and launch elements for local, regional and global programs, Worthington said, “Australia is really the mature location we use in terms of growing our capability all through Asia Pacific”.
Currently staffed by around 1100 engineers and 350 technicians – up from 500 engineers and 200 technicians in 2004 – Ford’s local product development operations boasts a design studio, virtual reality labs and the You Yangs-based testing facility, as well as strong links with local universities and institutions.
“The result of all that we’ve done over the last 15 years is a PD [product development] team here in Victoria that’s well integrated into doing business in Asia and globally,” Worthington said.
“And I guess the core capabilities that we’ve got and the quality of the outcomes that we’ve produced and are in progress … are the strongest possible indicator that we believe this asset has great utility for the future.
“It is clear that that more you do this the better you get.”
Set to involve software upgrades to its virtual reality centre, Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald confirmed the scheduled investment, telling CarAdvice: “At present we don’t have anything specific to share about the specifics of the updates but we’ll be able to share that soon.”
Worthington also said to expect the further expansion of models powered by Ford’s EcoBoost range of small-capacity turbocharged engines.
“Since we started with EcoBoost we’ve produced more than two million engines around the world – last year 1.2 million engines – so it’s really accelerating,” Worthington said.
“There’s more and more engines landing in platforms.
“Clearly more [EcoBoost models] to come. The pace isn’t slowing.”