Ford today closes a chapter in Australia as it bids farewell to 600 manufacturing employees and shutters its manufacturing plant for the last time after 91 years of building cars in the country.
160 manufacturing employees have been or will be redeployed from Ford’s plants to new design and engineering roles in the company’s product development operations across Victoria. As one of Ford’s global product development hubs, Ford Australia is poised to continue to deliver the innovation, creativity and know-how vital to the company’s future.
Ford Australia’s product development operation began in the 1960s with the development of the early imported Falcons to meet tough Australian conditions. The product development team will now build on decades of contributions by the Ford employees that made Falcon a legend, the Falcon Ute a backbone of local businesses and the Territory a go-to SUV for families.
“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 Graeme Whickman, president and CEO, Ford of Australia. “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 programs for our team members.
While Ford may no longer manufacture cars locally, the company will continue to invest in local research and development. Ford says it has invested $300 million in local R&D this year alone, with 2,000 team members by late 2017, including 1,100-plus designers and engineers.
The local team leads global development of vehicles such as the Ranger pick-up and Everest SUV at Ford’s new regional Product Development Centre in Broadmeadows that is being transformed at the site of the iconic Head Office building. The company’s Design Centre, with innovative facilities such as a virtual reality design lab – is next door.
“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,” said Whickman.
In Geelong, Ford’s Research and Development Centre will continue to support advanced engineering work. Once designed and engineered, all vehicles are then put through their paces at Ford’s 950-hectacre proving ground in Lara outside Geelong, which replicates some of the world’s toughest driving conditions. The team also tests prototype vehicles across the country’s expansive and punishing terrain.
To mark this ongoing commitment, Ford will donate the proceeds (less taxes) from the auction of the final saleable Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory to support the establishment and expansion of student robotics programs in Broadmeadows and Geelong schools. Ford engineers will work with these schools to either expand or create hubs for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM, formerly STEM) programs. They will also mentor teams of ambitious kids who develop and program robots to take on tough competition from around the world.
The auction of the final saleable vehicles will be managed by Manheim on behalf of Ford Australia. Auction registrations will be available online from Oct. 7. The auction will run online and live on Oct 15.
Complementing Ford’s significant local R&D investment, the company is seeing progress from work with its nearly 200 dealers to transform the brand, vehicle line-up and customer experience. In particular, more customers are servicing their vehicles at Ford dealerships and the company’s retail sales are steadily increasing in a shift from a heavier mix of fleet business to more sales to individual buyers.
Ford has more to offer these buyers after launching a record number of new vehicles – including the locally developed Ranger and Everest – in the past two years. Ford will now continue to offer one of the freshest line-ups while continuing to roll out 20 new or refreshed vehicles by 2020.