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Ford ramps up Aussie design

In real time: A Ford designer checks a new-car design by using a virtual reality lab at Ford Australia's design studio.

Work deluge has Ford product development team looking for recruits in Melbourne

21 Aug 2014

FORD AUSTRALIA is looking for new design talent to help cope with the volume of work coming in from the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.

The amount of work appears to be rising even though the Melbourne product development centre, one of only three in the Ford world, has wrapped up work on major projects such as the new Ranger-based Everest SUV, final Falcon and Territory facelifts and Focus-based Escort small car for China.

“It’s hard to nail down numbers but, right now, in terms of my part of the organisation, we are hunting people down,” said Todd Willing, Ford’s Asia-Pacific design director.

Mr Willing was speaking at Ford’s Innovation for Millions design and technology presentation in Melbourne, which was attended by journalists from China and many other countries around the region.

He said the variation is staff numbers occurred because programs could ramp up or down at any time.

Melbourne was “absolutely” a good source of designers, he said, thanks to the efforts of several universities around the city offering design courses.

He said being a designer at Ford also meant you needed to be prepared to travel.

“Within our organisation, we take in that expertise and place it elsewhere for people’s individual development and their understanding of the customers and our region,” he said.

“Their experience with our customers is highly thought of. We have managed to place a few people in North America and a few in Europe. It’s been very good for the design organisation.

“Yes, there is a rich vein of designers.” This movement among the design staff helped them become familiar with the consumer tastes in other markets.

Mr Willing said the rapidly developing markets of South-East Asia and China had distinct car cultures, even though car ownership was still relatively new for many consumers in those countries.

“Well, it’s diverse,” he said. “Every time I go to China, it’s the rate of change that I find surprising, how rapidly it is changing.

“It is a different kind of car culture but there is absolutely a car culture.

“In China, they love joining in clubs, going on drives on weekends.

“Surprisingly, we like to think we have one of the strongest car cultures, probably the strongest car culture I like to think, and that has been brought about by the landscape and our reliance on cars to get around.

“It’s a different kind of car culture in China, but it is very strong.

“It’s about belonging and communication with people and learning about driving because, in some cases, they are new to driving and the whole experience.

“They like to share that information around, and their product experiences. In fact, word of mouth among consumers has strong influence on their purchase decisions.” Mr Willing said the Ford Asia-Pacific product development centre was able to work closely with the other centres around the world.

It led the Figo small car program for Ford India a few years back and the global Ranger utility program more recently. It is also putting the finishing touches to the Everest, a sport utility vehicle based on the Ranger.

“We can work virtually on the same product, side-by-side, with people all over the world,” he said.

“Using the 4K-resolution displays in the FiVE (Ford immersion Virtual Environment) lab and design studio, engineers and designers work together – here in Melbourne and with their counterparts elsewhere – to hone every aspect of Ford vehicles.”

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