Ford Australia’s design centre has been given a new lease on life with a $12 million renovation that secures its future for at least another decade.
The top secret styling studio in Broadmeadows on the northern outskirts of Melbourne was the birthplace for every Ford Falcon since the 1970s, and later models such as the Ford Territory SUV and the current generation Ford Ranger ute and Everest four-wheel-drive.
Since Ford closed its Australian manufacturing operations in October 2016, the company has increased its design and engineering workforce, however the 2500 employees now develop global vehicles, primarily for China, India and South America, with input into some US models.
Former Holden designer, Max Wolff, who was head-hunted by Ford USA after being appointed the design director at General Motors’ Cadillac brand in 2010, returned to Australia with Ford five years ago.
Mr Wolff is now the design director for Ford international markets and China, based at the Broadmeadows facility.
Although the design studio has been in operation since the early 1970s, the facility had a mild makeover in 2012.
Above: Ford Australia design studio in the early 1980s. Top of story: Ford US design studio working on a 1960s era Falcon concept.
“This time around, the whole building has been redesigned,” said Mr Wolff, in a media statement. “It has been structured around supporting our design process and our team, enabling them to work in a modern, creative environment.”
Ford says it has installed 100 new workstations and extended the clay modelling workshop where full-scale models are made. The new “five-axis gantry milling centre” is part of a 2,300m2 expansion.
“The studio’s team of 40 clay modelers can now use cutting-edge digital technologies to speed up the design process,” said Mr Wolff.
While initial car design starts on computer, “the new five-axis gantry mill is an interface between the physical and digital worlds, taking information from the computer and quickly and accurately translating it into the physical with a greater level of detail,” Mr Wolff said.
Meanwhile, the secure outside court yard has been expanded, to assemble more vehicles and assess their design in natural light.
The Ford Australia design centre continues to create a path for aspiring young designers to get a job in the automotive world, with design graduates regularly sourced from Australian universities.
Former Ford Australia designers who are now working throughout the Ford world include Todd Willing and Nima Nourian (Detroit) and Simon Brook, who is running the Ford China Studio in Shanghai.
Ford says it has invested more than $AU1.9 billion in its research and development centres in Australia between 2016 and 2019. In 2020, Ford invested more than $AU500 million in R&D and the company says it is on track to spend a similar amount in 2021.
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