The heavy hitters from Detroit fly to Sydney to outline the next step for Ford global operations
When it comes to throwing a party, the car companies can reach heights never before contemplated by mere mortals or conventional corporations. The motor industry is like no other, in that it’s not just a case of selling the product. To be successful you not only have to sell the sausage, you have to sell the sizzle. It’s all part of the excitement of buying a new car or van that differentiates the purchase from those trying to sell fridges and washing machines.
And for those still wondering if there’s a chance of reprieve, it’s time to face up to the sheer economies of scale that affect manufacturing of any product on a global basis.
As nice as it would be to protect local manufacturing in Australia, the bald facts are that by 2015 Ford will have five manufacturing plants in full swing in China that can collectively produce 1.2 million vehicles per year. That’s more than the total number of vehicles of all manufacturers sold in Australia. Add to the Chinese volumes those of Thailand and other Asian and European plants, and even the most optimistic enthusiast can see that maintaining a base here, even if heavily subsidised by Federal Government, is just not going to eventuate.
In order to shift the company emphasis from negative to positive, Ford recently pulled out all the stops to change the morale of dealers, customers and employees that have weathered the emotion of recent statements about plant closures and the end of local manufacturing by 2016.
The company took over the sound stage at Sydney’s Fox Studios, home of movies such as Wolverine, to transform the interior into a major auditorium and global showroom in which is could display all the new models we will see in local dealerships in Australia in the next two years.
Dealers, fleet customers and members of the automotive media were flown in from all parts of the country to join in the spectacle and to meet with senior executives from Dearborn in North America, the home of Ford global operations.
This was definitely the executive “A” team, headed by Ford Motor Company President and Chief Executive Officer – Alan Mulally, and including, Chief Operating Officer – Mark Fields, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln – Jim Farley, Group Vice President and President of Asia Pacific – David Schoch, and Ford Australia President and CEO – Bob Graziano.
Ford may not be making cars here much longer, but it will be capitalising on the experience and ability within the Australian division for research and development, such as the expertise that spawned the design of the Ford Ranger.
Ford is currently the largest Australian auto company investor in research and development. Last year saw Ford’s investment reach $270 million, which brings the company’s total R & D investment in Australia during the past six years to more than $1.9 billion.
Ford’s R & D investment is continuing and the company has spent $2.5 million on a new test cell that will allow vehicles to meet stricter emission requirements. A new $1.4 million noise, vibration and harshness test road is also being built at the proving ground, while other roads in the facility will receive a $1.5 million refurbish. More than $300,000 is being spent on new equipment to develop and test driver-assistance technology.
Mark Fields gave Australia, and the world, the first look at a rugged, seven-seat design concept called the Ford Everest Concept, which was created by the Ford design and product development team in Australia, enhancing Ford’s already strong SUV line-up, which includes the Ford Kuga and Ford Territory, and soon the new Ford EcoSport.
“This is our vision for a large, seven-seat off-road SUV to allow our customers to take on the world, and it was created by our world-class design team here in Australia,” Fields said.
Ford’s vision of the future also includes the full family of Ford vehicles: the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Ford Mondeo, Ford EcoSport, Ford Kuga, Ford Ranger and Ford Transit, as well as the iconic Ford Mustang and the new 2014 Ford Falcon. A range of new customer-focused technologies will also roll out in future Fords.
Graziano said Ford in Australia was entering a new phase. “Our customers, our employees and Australia can be assured that we’re connected to the nation and committed to our customers through terrific products with class-leading technologies,” he said.
“Our road to growth is with great new products that serve a broad range of Ford customers.
“Driven by our One Ford strategy of serving customers in all markets with a full range of competitive vehicles, and leveraging our global capabilities, the award-winning Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Ford Mondeo, Ford EcoSport, Ford Kuga, Ford Ranger and Ford Transit are global platforms that are underpinned by world-class design, engineering and technology.”
The company took the wraps off the new Ford Fiesta, Ford Fiesta ST, Ford Mondeo hatch and wagon, and Ford EcoSport. Ford will also offer commercial customers in Australia the Ford Transit Custom as well as heavier-duty Ford Transit Cargo model.
“All of these great products deliver on our core brand pillars – Quality, Sustainability, Safety and Smart – and they have opened up exciting opportunities to serve our customers better,” Graziano said.
When the Ford Transit Custom and Ford Transit Cargo arrive early in 2014, they will offer Australian businesses, small and large, a range of new commercial vehicles.
Both are truly global vehicles packed with Ford technology. They will take the Australian van market in an exciting new direction with purpose-built applications for customers who need the ultimate in capability.
The all-new Ford Transit Custom is primed to deliver style, driver appeal, class-competitive load-carrying ability, Ford SYNC compatibility and fuel efficiency. The Transit Custom, the International Van of the Year 2013, arrives in dealerships later this year, and the Ford Transit Cargo early next year.
The Ford Transit Cargo is a capacious purpose-built workhorse for heavy-duty applications for customers seeking more from their vans.
The newest Ford Transit is the latest in a long line of market-leading Transits, which have sold seven million vehicles since the first model was introduced in the UK in 1965.
Ford will expand its collaboration with Australian universities as part of a commitment to developing a world-class system of external alliances, programs and practices in Australia and Asia.
It has appointed senior Ford Technical Engineer, Richard Taube, as Ford Australia’s Manager for University Programs.
Ford’s vision is to expand its research presence in Australia and to grow alliances with the most relevant and technically capable universities.
Ford Group Vice President and President of Asia Pacific, David Schoch, said the university system in Australia was world class. “It is industrially relevant, and we also believe such collaborations are a way for Ford to give back to our Australian community while also ensuring we develop world-class technologies that can benefit all Ford customers,” he said.
Ford’s US-based Chief Technical Officer and Vice President – Ford Research and Innovation, Paul Mascarenas, has championed the university collaboration program in Australia.
Mascarenas, who leads Ford’s worldwide research organisation and oversees the development and implementation of the company’s technology strategy, said such collaborations were an important plank in supporting young talent coming through the tertiary education system.
“The announcement of a dedicated University Programs Manager will not only allow us to build on existing partnerships, but enable us to develop new partnerships,” he said. “Through these collaborations we will continue to be able to provide efficient and technologically advanced vehicles to millions of customers around the world.”
Ford already has an established history of working with Australian universities, including the University of Melbourne, Deakin University and The Australian National University in Canberra.
Five major Ford-funded university research projects are already in progress, and the company plans to increase this further in an effort to drive new vehicle efficiencies and deliver state-of-the-art technologies that will benefit customers.
The company has had an alliance with the University of Melbourne through its Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and Testing (AC0ART) at the You Yangs Proving Ground since 2006. ACART has facilities at both the Proving Ground and the University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus. ACART provides the local automotive and transport industries with state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly skilled personnel for automotive research and testing.