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Booster shot for Ford’s local R&D operations

Moved up: Ford's head of product development for the Asia Pacific is Australian Trevor Worthington.

Ford promotes Australian executive to head of Asia-Pacific product development

23 Jul 2013

FORD’S Asia-Pacific product development operations in Victoria stand to benefit from the appointment of former Ford Australia executive Trevor Worthington as head of product development for the entire region.

The Broadmeadows-based design and engineering centre, and other facilities including its research and development centre in Geelong and proving ground at nearby Lara, will not be a casualty of Ford’s decision to close its local manufacturing operations in 2016, according to the car-maker.

But as reports last week suggested Ford Australia is preparing to wind down its Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) division as early as next year to make way for a new wave of imported performance cars – including a new-generation Mustang from 2016 – the future of the local product development operations, and around 1000 jobs, now hinges on projects offshore.

A former vice-president of product development at Ford Australia, Mr Worthington steps up from his current role as vehicle line director for passenger vehicles and SUV programs for the Asia-Pacific region, based in Shanghai.

Ford Motor Company said in a statement last week that Mr Worthington, who becomes a company officer with the appointment, “will be responsible for continuing the acceleration of new products to support Ford’s aggressive growth plans in Asia-Pacific”.

This includes bringing more than 50 new vehicles and powertrains to the region by mid-decade.

He will report to Ford Asia-Pacific group vice-president Dave Schoch and global product development group vice-president Raj Nair.

Ford Australia has taken a leading role on key regional projects including the Chinese market-oriented Escort small car unveiled at the Shanghai motor show in April, the Thai-built Ranger utility (and a forthcoming SUV wagon derivative) and the Fiesta-based Figo light car in India.

As well as creating its own domestic vehicles, including the upgraded 2014 Falcon and Territory – the last models to roll down the Broadmeadows assembly line, potentially now with an XR8 swansong if there is an early departure of FPV – the Australian team has also had a hand in the next-generation Mustang heading this way.

At the recent international launch of the forthcoming Indian-built EcoSport compact SUV, Mr Worthington told GoAuto the company was working to a “forward cycle plan that has the Ford factory (product development operations) in Australia totally full”.

“They’re working on a range of things,” he said.

“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.

“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.” Competition is also intensifying in the region as global car-makers invest heavily with new model lines developed specifically for emerging markets. Nissan is the latest of these, unveiling the all-new Datsun Go in India last week and promising several new models under the resurrected Datsun brand will be tailored to specific markets such as India and Indonesia within the next 18 months.

A 28-year Blue Oval veteran, Mr Worthington has held key product planning and strategy roles since he moved to Ford’s regional office in 2008.

He has delivered the first wave of global products for Asia-Pacific markets, including the EcoSport, and also built up the “capability of Ford’s product development organisation in Asia”.

In Australia, he oversaw all programs built off the Falcon platform, including the BA and FG Falcon series and the Territory SUV.

Mr Worthington’s new appointment comes amid a string of changes in global purchasing, engineering and product development. He replaces Kumar Galhotra who is now vice-president of engineering worldwide.

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