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Ford committed to Australian suppliers

In the driver’s seat: Ford Australia says it will continue its relationship with 63 parts suppliers, including seat-maker Futuris, following the closure of its manufacturing operations in 2016.

63 parts suppliers to continue working with Ford Australia beyond 2016 closure

7 Oct 2015

FORD Australia has announced that it will continue to source aftermarket parts from 63 local suppliers beyond the closure of its Geelong and Broadmeadows manufacturing operations in October 2016.

The Blue Oval said the move is designed to assist some of its key stakeholders, including suppliers, employees, dealers and customers, in the transition from a manufacturer to a full-line importer by the end of next year.

The company also confirmed that of the 63 suppliers, 17 had secured new business through Ford’s global operations, beyond their own current local projects.

This is up from nine that were already working on international programs, with the company saying that “a significant investment in trade fairs and missions between Ford’s local suppliers and its global product decision-makers” helped secure the new business.

Ford described the Ranger and Everest as the “centrepieces” of the company’s investment in research and development in Australia that has hit $300 million in 2015 alone, and topped $2 billion over the past six years.

The suppliers will help Ford in its product onslaught that will see 20 more new models launched by 2020. The company will soon cap off a record year of launches, with the new-generation Mondeo, facelifted Focus, Ranger MkII and Everest all arriving this year, while the Mustang pony car is set to debut by December.

Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman highlighted the Blue Oval’s commitment to the Australian market, despite the end of manufacturing next year.

“Many people think the auto industry is closing down in Australia but that is not the case at Ford,” he said. “In fact, we are launching more new vehicles and investing more than any auto-maker as the only company fully developing vehicles in Australia.” Mr Whickman said the company was committed to offering world-class models with “advanced technologies and innovative features”.

“We plan to continue this momentum by investing more in R&D in Australia and around the world, which ultimately will help us bring our customers 20 more new vehicles by 2020,” he said.

“Also, as the industry transitions, we expect to become the country’s largest auto employer by 2018 – something we take great pride in considering this will include about 1500 highly skilled employees across professions such as engineering and design.” While the core business of most of the suppliers will be for aftermarket parts, Ford said that new opportunities will be explored with the local companies.

Ford identified suppliers including MtM Auto which produces everything from windscreen washer nozzles and doorhandles to automatic gearshifts and steering columns, as well as Futuris Automotive, which supplies seats and interior trims, as two companies that will continue to supply Ford beyond 2016.

As well, Geelong-based Carbon Revolution supplies the carbon-fibre wheels for Ford’s ballistic Shelby Mustang GT350R, while the miRoamer internet radio function in Ford’s Sync2 infotainment system is produced by Melbourne’s Connexion Media.

“This work will help us maintain a supply of high-quality parts for our customers for years to come,” said Ford Australia general manager of purchasing Carl Parkin. “At the same time, we can continue to come up with new ideas for our global vehicles.” Ford said as part of its commitment to ensuring a smooth transition from manufacturing to full importation, it adopted a ‘match-making’ strategy that aimed to connect its suppliers with new opportunities within Ford’s “global operations”.

This kicked off with a supplier fair in March last year, as well as trade missions to China and Thailand in conjunction with state and federal governments. Ford also recently detailed the capability of its suppliers at the Automotive Supply Excellence Australia forum that featured a delegation of Indian automotive executives.

“We have seen first-hand for many years the dedication and innovation of Australia’s auto suppliers,” said Mr Parkin. “We are pleased to work with them, through our local program and engineering team, to expand their expertise on a global scale.” Ford’s Australian development and engineering arm has secured a number of high-profile projects in recent years, most notably the T6 Ranger utility which was developed alongside its mechanical twin the Mazda BT-50 and launched in 2011, as well as the just-launched Everest SUV.

Other projects include the sixth-generation Fiesta-based Figo small car developed for emerging markets such as India, Mexico and South Africa, and a range of other secret programs that GoAuto has uncovered, such as a new Chinese-market Taurus.

Recent reports suggest that the Ranger and Everest will be added to Ford’s roster in the United States, with a potential market opening up for a smaller pick-up following declining sales of the big F-Series and other similar models.

If Ford sells the Ranger in the States, the sub-F-Series truck would take on Chevrolet’s Colorado, while it has been rumoured that the Everest could take the iconic Bronco badge if it receives the green light.

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