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First look: Ford’s Australian-developed Everest wagon

First glimpse: The rugged, ute-based Everest seven-seater has been revealed.

Ranger-based Everest SUV concept makes world debut as local R&D keeps busy

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Ford logo13 Aug 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

UPDATED at 15:30FORD staged the global reveal of its long-awaited, Australian-developed Everest SUV at a major event in Sydney today, and reiterated its commitment to designing and engineering cars here beyond the closure of its local factories in 2016.

The surprise world debut of the rugged T6 Ranger-based off-roader was one of the big-ticket items at a multi-million-dollar ‘Go Further’ future product event, which was held at Fox Studios and brought together media, dealers, staff and Ford Motor Co’s senior management team from Detroit including president and CEO Alan Mulally, COO Mark Fields and executive vice-president of global marketing, sales and service Jim Farley.

As reported, the Everest will be spun off the same global architecture as the Ranger utility, and like its commercial sibling was developed entirely in Australia. It will be built in Thailand alongside the Ranger.

While the Everest will have seven seats and rival SUVs such as the Holden Colorado 7, full model details are being held back until closer to its launch, which GoAuto understands could be as late as the second half of 2015.

Company insiders revealed in Sydney that Ford brought forward the planned reveal date by several months to incorporate it into the event, which was staged to demonstrate the company’s commitment to Australia – and New Zealand – after announcing in May that it was closing down its manufacturing operations in 2016.

The production version of the Everest is expected to incorporate mostly new panels, including different door skins, to the Ranger.

Its arrival will take the Blue Oval’s SUV range to four – also including the forthcoming EcoSport due in December, plus the Kuga and locally made Territory.

The Everest will sell alongside a mildly facelifted Territory until the latter ceases production at the end of 2016. The ute-based Everest’s utilitarian underpinnings may mean Ford will look to supplement it beyond this date with a more road-focused international model, perhaps the next-generation Explorer.

The Blue Oval also used the Go Further event to confirm it would – as expected – sell the next-gen Mustang as a new hero car following Falcon’s demise. It also gave the best look yet at the forthcoming Falcon facelift, due in the second half of 2014, following a similar ploy (with a grainy image) at the 2012 Sydney motor show.

Ford pulled out its biggest global guns to sell its new message in Australia and remind customers that it will still import cars after it closes its production lines. By 2017, the company says it will offer a completely refreshed line-up spanning 11 models – 70 per cent of which will have EcoBoost turbo engine power.

One of the key messages delivered at the event was a renewed commitment to retaining the Victorian-based design and engineering facilities for Ford’s Asia-Pacific and Africa region beyond 2016.

These facilities, which employ 1100 staff and include a design and engineering centre at Broadmeadows, a research and design centre in Geelong and a proving ground at Lara, perform major roles in creating new cars for global markets.

As well as Everest and Ranger, notable assignments include the Indian-market Figo, the Chinese Escort concept and a large proportion of development work on the current Mustang.

According to Asia-Pacific president David Schoch, Ford has pumped $1.96 billion into its Australian facilities over the past six years, including $200 million both this year and last.

This, said Mr Schoch, means the Blue Oval invests more in local research and development than any other automotive company in Australia, including local manufacturers Holden and Toyota.

As we reported from India in May, Ford’s then Chinese-based Asia-Pacific passenger vehicle and SUV programs director Trevor Worthington – since appointed to a larger role as head of product development for the entire region – told us the local operations had a “totally full” forward cycle plan and could potentially use extra staff.

“I’m not going to tell you what they are and aren’t working on, but they have shown themselves to be totally capable of working on almost anything we throw at them, and so the factory is full and if anything we need more people in Australia, not less,” he said at the time.

“There’s no magic to this, we have 1000 engineers in Australia, they are doing outstanding work, and they are doing regional, they are doing local, and they are doing global.

“To be a relevant engineering centre you’ve got to have flexibility to do what the company needs, to be able to jump out of one and into the other, and we’ve been able to create a workforce that has that flexibility.” It remains unclear if Ford plans to appoint extra staff, although the Mr Schoch did confirm separate $1.5 million investments in both the Lara proving ground and in the development a new testing road to improve NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) on projects.

Mr Fields described the near-production Everest as “our vision for a large, seven-seat off-road SUV to allow our customers to take on the world ... created by our world-class design team here in Australia”.

“We believe our customers will love the distinctive design, which clearly showcases the Ford Everest concept’s exceptional off-road capability and toughness,” he said.

Design touches include an inverted trapezoid grille, flared wheelarches and high ground clearance reflecting its rugged nature. Expect power to come from the Ranger’s 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine.

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