The design manager for General Motors Australia Design believes the US car maker can't afford to lose the company's Port Melbourne-based facility as it approaches the end of local vehicle manufacturing in 2017.
Speaking at the Cars of Tomorrow conference in Melbourne, part of the Victorian Government-backed Australian Automotive Week, Frank Rudolph said apart from the Australian tech centre being around since 1964 and earning a globally recognised reputation for delivering very high quality design work, the team’s cultural sensitivity and passion further boosted its importance and global relevance.
One of nine GM design studios – the most mature in Asia Pacific and only one of two with capabilities to fabricate and manufacture vehicles – and with a team of 116 staff, Rudolph said as GM Australia Design has increased in experience and reputation it has moved into a mentoring role, particularly within Asia Pacific.
“Without production and [motor] shows in Australia we’ve transitioned to a global studio where we do global production, global shows but actually more interesting than that, we do advanced work and we have exchange of talent and mentoring,” Rudolph said.
“This has been something strategically that we’ve been doing over the years and we like to think that we’re basically through the transition period already.”
Highlighting the team’s awareness of global cultures, its unbiased position not being part of North America, Asia or Europe, and also “the passion for cars that we’re all known for in Melbourne and all of Australia”, Rudolph said when you combine these, “you’ve got a good formula for the team and a design presence in Australia".
“We’d like to think that that may keep ourselves in a position where they can’t afford to lose us.”
In January, GM executive vice president of design Ed Welburn confirmed to CarAdvice that the manufacturer's Australian design centre would still play a part in styling the next Holden Commodore, despite the fact it will be an imported, global model.
GM Australia Design has previously been involved in the 2008 Chicago auto show GMC Denali XT concept (pictured top), the EN-V concepts seen at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and more recently the Chevrolet Adra concept (pictured above) unveiled at last month's Delhi auto show.
At the same industry event in Melbourne, Ford Australia also confirmed it will announce new funding for its Melbourne-based product development operations later this year.