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Ford  From left: J Mays, Mark Fields and CEO Alan Mulally at the New York show.

From left: J Mays, Mark Fields and CEO Alan Mulally at the New York show.

Promising future ahead for Ford Australia as Fields, Mays talk it up

FORD Australia is playing an increasingly important role in global design and engineering for the American auto giant, according to the Ford Motor Company’s design chief J Mays and its Americas president Mark Fields.

Speaking to GoAuto at the New York International Auto Show last week, the two Ford heavyweights both talked up the international significance of the Australian operation.

While Mr Mays said Ford’s Melbourne-based design team was working closely with the Blue Oval’s European design centre in Cologne, Germany, shaping the next-generation of vehicles worldwide, Mr Fields revealed that rear-wheel drive architecture could be returning to American Fords within the next five years.

"I’d say that we are looking at that very, very closely," Mr Fields said, adding that Australia could also be involved in engineering larger, crossover-style SUVs (such as the next-generation Territory) for North America.

"Yeah, potentially," he said. "I won’t rule out anything."

In more general terms, he emphasised that FoMoCo needed to make better use of outposts such as Australia.

"We have to leverage our global assets better, particularly our engineering. I can’t get into specifics about what or where, but clearly Australia has huge capabilities and we need to take advantage of that globally," he said.

"I’ve been down (to Melbourne) a lot, and I am familiar with the facilities, and there are a lot of people going back and forth, and we are doing a lot of work with Broadmeadows right now for South America, which involves the compact pick-up truck (T6, due to replace the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50)."

Meanwhile, Mr Mays said that he had given Ford of Europe’s design director Martin Smith "the reign to bring in a lot of the next-generation of designs from Ford Australia and Asia-Pacific, so there will be influences there".

He also confirmed that there were tangible design similarities between the new mid-sized Mondeo and the next-generation Falcon, both of which will be on sale in Australia during 2008.

"There are (Mondeo) influences with the new Falcon, although it is a little bit too early for me to be talking about that," Mr Mays said. "You will not see exactly the same car, but I think you will see that it came out of the same thinking. It’s about as much as I can tell you at the moment."

Mr Mays added that Ford’s European and Australasian design studios – the latter under the influence of American Scott Strong – would continue to forge stronger links.

"As we get into the next generation of product, we have a mindset that we are going to drive all Fords – in Asia-Pacific and Europe – a little bit more towards each other," he said. "We are spending a lot more time down there in Melbourne than we were even two years ago."

Read more: Falcon fast-tracked!




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