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Another boost for local Ford engineering team

Just the start: The Australian-developed Chinese-market Ford Escort is ‘just the start’ of an international product onslaught in which the local team will be involved.

Former Ford Australia engineering boss says local vehicle development to increase

Ford logo25 Sep 2014

By DANIEL GARDNER in LOS ANGELES

FORD’S former Australian-based Asia-Pacific engineering director Jim Holland, who recently returned to the US to take on a top global engineering role, has revealed that the Victorian product development centre has a vast amount of work in progress and would play a central role in key new models for years to come.

Speaking to GoAuto at the US launch of the Ford Mustang this week, Mr Holland told GoAuto that his departure from Australia after three years in the job would not interrupt progress, and described the recently completed Chinese-market Escort as “just the start” of Australia’s global product development repertoire, with a particular emphasis on the Asian region.

“The Australia team is our hub for the Asia-Pacific engineering – it’s a very mature and experienced team in Australia, great facilities to develop vehicles and we’ve got a tremendous amount of work in front of us,” he said.

“I can tell you that there’s a lot more great new vehicles (coming) in the Asia-Pacific market.”

Mr Holland, who is now vice-president of vehicle component and systems engineering for Ford and Lincoln vehicles worldwide, would not discuss other programs underway – many of which he was overseeing in his previous role – but said there were a large number of regional projects on the table.

As GoAuto exclusively reportedly in August, the Australian engineering team has been caught working on the highly anticipated new-generation Taurus large car and derivatives that will be tailored for key regional markets such as China.

We also uncovered engineers testing a Ford Fusion-based development car that our sources suggest was equipped with a modified rear suspension – a vehicle which could be part of the Taurus program or relate to a separate future model such as the forthcoming Lincoln MKS bound for North America and China.

Ford’s American and Australian design and product development teams have been working in co-operation, and Mr Holland said personnel exchanges between the two countries will continue.

“It (Australia) is a great place to provide exposure to the Asia-Pacific market,” Mr Holland said.

“We go there to learn but we also go to provide experience. But it goes the other way too – we have quite a few engineers coming from Australia to do the exact same thing.”

Using the Australian-developed Indian-market Ford Figo light hatch as an example, Mr Holland also said that the success of the Australian team – which has all but completed the final Australian-built Falcon and Territory, which reach the end of the line in two years’ time – was partly due to its ability to turn its hand to new markets.

“The team learned how to engineer for that market (India). The studio is tremendous and in Australia it’s the full suite,” he said.

“We start in the studio, then we go in to the virtual world – we use the latest CAD CAE and virtual reality. We linked that in to Dearborn and then all the way through the development builds on to production. It’s a very strong team.”

The Escort small sedan was developed by the Melbourne-based team as a China-only vehicle, but Mr Holland said the Australian centre would be involved with future products for all regions as required.

“The team is there for the entire Asia-Pacific market so as we decide the priorities as a global business – what we will be launching and what we need – Australia will be right there,” he said.

Recent efforts to hire new engineers have pushed the Australian development team to about 1100 employees – a number Mr Holland said was now the right size and would not undergo any more significant growth.

During his 30 years with Ford, Mr Holland has also served as car and truck vehicle line director for Ford Asia-Pacific, responsible for the Ford Transit, Ranger, Everest, Falcon and Territory vehicle lines.

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