Ford will axe more than 200 jobs locally as part of a global restructure of the company’s engineering divisions, however Australia will retain a key role in the recently-signed joint development of the next generation Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok utes.
Approximately 90 contractors, 75 hourly workers and 40 salaried workers will lose their jobs but Ford Australia will retain about 1700 design and engineering staff, the largest workforce of its type in the country.
Combined with approximately 300 head office workers, Ford says it will still employ more than 2000 people locally.
The job losses affect certain powertrain and chassis engineers whose roles have been moved to Detroit and other engineering bases.
The changes are part of Ford’s decision to move to one global “body-on-frame” ute architecture, which means that the next generation F-Series due next decade will likely share its underpinnings with the Ranger that’s still a whole generation away, due in the late 2020s or beyond.
A statement from Ford said: “As part of those changes, elements of the Ranger platform will integrate with Ford’s single, global body-on-frame flexible architecture, which will be led out of the United States. Certain powertrain… systems currently engineered in Australia will move to other powertrain sites globally, enabling complexity reduction and scale efficiencies.”
In the meantime, Ford and Volkswagen are ramping up development of the next Ranger and Amarok likely to be due in 2021. They will be twins under the skin, based on a revised version of the current T6 platform before eventually shifting to Ford's new global architecture in the generation that follows.
What is unclear is whether or not the next Amarok will shrink slightly or the Ranger will grow to match the VW’s extra width, or if the two will be built in slightly different sizes as per the Nissan Navara and Mercedes X-Class twins.
Despite the job cuts Ford says it will still invest more than $500 million across its design and engineering divisions in Australia in 2019, albeit down from $574 million last year.
Ford also plans to expand its Broadmeadows design centre workforce to accommodate future global projects.
The new Ranger and Amarok utes, which are still both in the very early stages of development, are understood to be at least three years away from showrooms.
Given that utes have a 10-year-plus lifecycle, and the current PX series and first generation Amarok were introduced in 2011, an introduction of late 2021 or early 2022 is likely.
The statement from Ford continued: “Ford Motor Company is assigning new design work to Ford Australia to support global projects as the company continues to drive improvements to its global product development operations”.
Ford said the Australian-based Asia-Pacific Product Development Centre – based in Geelong, Broadmeadows and the You Yangs proving ground – will “take on additional global … projects, boosting local expertise in advanced electrical engineering, interior and exterior automotive design and engineering, and feature integration”.
Ford recently completed a $13 million upgrade of its Broadmeadows-based Design Centre, where much of the work on the Ranger-Amarok will take place.
“This expansion increases the Design Centre’s capacity, and reinforces Ford’s position as the largest auto employer in Australia,” Ford said.
“ Australian-based engineers will continue to play a key role in global programs, including the recently-announced collaboration with Volkswagen. The team will have a strategic role in developing a new medium-sized pickup truck for Ford and the German brand.”
In addition to being the “home room” for Ranger-Amarok, Ford’s Australia’s design and engineering divisions will also support “global markets”, namely China and India.
“We are focused on strengthening our product development operations to provide the best possible products for our customers, and the Australian-based team has a key role to play,” said Dave French, Programs Director at Ford Asia-Pacific.
“While the focus of our work is shifting, we continue to be world leaders in automotive design and engineering, evidenced by the calibre of work we continue to do in Australia.”
Earlier this month, Ford and Volkswagen signed a joint venture to collaborate on a number of projects. In addition to the Ranger-Amarok pick-up there is “potential collaboration on electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and mobility services”.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
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