Ford Australia says it is in the midst of redeploying 160 manufacturing staff to new roles within its vehicle development operations in Victoria, where they will help develop global products such as the next Ranger ute.
As the shutters closed on Ford Australia’s Falcon and Territory production line in northern Melbourne on Friday, the company said it still planned to invest more than any other car-maker into local research and development.
This year Ford had invested A$300m ($319m) in its Australian R&D facilities, and would have 2000 team members by late 2017, including 1100-plus designers and engineers spread across its development and design centres, plus its regional proving ground.
Ford Australia closed the factory where it made the Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory on Friday, ending 91 years of Australian car production, and waving goodbye to 600 manufacturing employees.
“Today is an emotional day for all of us at Ford. We are saying goodbye to some of our proud and committed manufacturing employees and marking an end to 91 years of manufacturing in Australia,” said president and CEO Graeme Whickman.
“But, as the country’s largest automotive investor and soon employer, we have been able to transfer many employees from our plants to our design, engineering and testing facilities across Victoria.
“We also appreciate the partnership and assistance provided by our unions and the federal and state governments as we have delivered retraining and other assistance programmes for our team members.”
Ford’s significant design and development operations in Melbourne, Geelong and Lara leads global development of vehicles such as the Ranger ute and Everest SUV, and also did the China-market Escort and previous-generation Figo for India.
As the development/design hub for the Asia Pacific region (which is headquartered in Shanghai, and counts the head of the original Territory programme Trevor Worthington as a senior staffer), it will work on numerous global projects for the next generation of Ford, too.
“Ford will remain a major presence in Australia and we will carry forward the legacy of our manufacturing team by continuing to design and engineer world-class vehicles for Australia and the world for many years to come,” Whickman promised.
Design and development is based at the old company-wide HQ in Broadmeadows. In Geelong, Ford’s Research and Development Centre will continue to support advanced engineering work. All vehicles are put through their paces at Ford’s 950ha proving ground in Lara, which replicates some of the world’s toughest driving conditions. The team also tests prototype vehicles across public roads.