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Beijing show: Ford praises Ausssie engineers

Made in China: While the new Ford Focus (below) is a global product available across various regions, Ford Asia-Pacific vice-president of product planning Trevor Worthington said China played a huge part in shaping the new small car.

New Ford Focus tailored to capitalise on Chinese tastes, future Ranger could too

30 Apr 2018


AUSTRALIAN engineers working at the Victorian Ford Asia-Pacific development and design centre have been praised by former product chief Trevor Worthington, who said the team was building world-class vehicles for global consumption.

Speaking to Australian journalists on the Ford stand at this year’s Beijing motor show, Mr Worthington – now Ford Asia-Pacific vice-president of product planning – said the success of the T6 Ranger pick-up was a direct result of the quality of Ford’s locally built offerings.

“There’s no doubt that as the Falcon business and the Territory business wound down … there was a level of expertise on those products that we were then able to deploy onto Ranger to make Ranger the great global product it is today,” he said.

“As we got to the end of the Falcon cycle and there was less and less work to do, more and more of those people were coming across to work on products for India, products for China and the Ranger and Everest.

“One of the great things about that team, one of the great things about Australian engineers let alone those working for Ford, is that Australian engineers are very, very adaptable.”

 center imageLeft: Ford Asia-Pacific vice-president of product planning Trevor Worthington

Mr Worthington said the Australian mentality of carrying on and getting the job done played a huge role in developing the Ranger, which has resonated across almost 200 markets worldwide.

“They’re a team of people who can be one day working on a small car and the next day be working on a truck … and the logic of ‘who’s the customer, what are they looking for, how much are they looking to spend, how am I going to give it to them’ is like a universality that comes from farmers in Australia – they don’t have a lot of money, but they’ve got to be able to fix stuff businesses in Australia, they haven’t got a lot of money but they need to be able to sell stuff,” he said.

“There’s something about the approach that is common in a lot of markets – you see it in South Africa as well – it’s like I’m not going to go to the premium solution, I’m going to go to the solution that works and that is a very good model for delivering value product development and value products to the global market.”

However, being the largest market in the world with 28 million new-vehicle sales last year, Mr Worthington said the Chinese region was now holding more sway over global products such as the Focus.

“The new Focus … is a globally developed product,” he said. “Developed in Europe, but significantly, a large amount of input was driven from the Asia-Pacific region.

“So the need for the vehicle to be bigger, the need for a really good balance between first row and second row room, the need for advanced vehicle technology, the need for advanced connectivity technology, the need for greater than 10 per cent improvement in fuel economy – all of those things have been driven primarily by our desire and need in this market (China) to deliver all of those things to make the Focus nameplate here successful.”

While the Chinese market easily eclipses the United States (16 million annually) and Australia (about 1.2 million), Mr Worthington assuaged fears that Chinese preferences would compromise other regions.

“There are a number of us in Shanghai who are Australian, and so whenever you are doing these things, you are always kind of looking over your shoulder and going ‘well, is this going to hurt anybody, is this the right thing to do?’,” he said.

“We’re convinced that we made that vehicle better for the globe, but we would also probably say better for Australia.”

However, Mr Worthington said the relationship would likely not cut both ways and that Australian input into Chinese-market vehicles would be relegated to development work and not influence.

“In terms of the connection between Australia and China, it’s difficult to draw that,” he said. “We sell Everest in China – it’s made in China, sold in China.

Everest is clearly developed in Australia for a range of global markets, so there’s inevitably a connection between everything we do, but not all of it is a direct connection.”

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