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Some good news for Ford

Recognition: Ford Australia collected two of five SAE-A awards this year.

Ford Australia engineers sound a high note at the SAE awards to end a bad day

Ford logo26 Aug 2008


AFTER a tumultuous day that saw the announcement of job losses, a slashing of production and the shock resignation of the company president, Ford Australia at least had something to celebrate last Friday night.

Its engineering staff accepted some well-earned kudos, collecting two of the five awards handed out at the 2008 SAE-A Automotive Engineering Excellence Awards held at the RACV Club in Melbourne.

However, it was not the full fairytale ending to the day from hell because the company did not collect the top award, which went to component supplier Hella Australia for an innovative new light for underground mining vehicles.

Not that FG Falcon chief engineer David Wilkinson was complaining, telling GoAuto on the night that he and his team were “more than happy” to collect the silver, as well as a Special Commendation Award for the safety systems that helped the Falcon become Australia’s first five-star crash rating recipient.

Even rival Toyota engineering chief Max Gillard, in his role as president of the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia, recognised the Falcon’s ANCAP test rating achievement by asking the audience for a special round of applause before the award was announced.

 center imageLeft: Ford's FG Falcon in ANCAP crash testing.

Mr Wilkinson said it was the culmination of a great deal of work by the engineering team at Broadmeadows and was satisfying recognition for their achievement.

Accepting the Silver Award for the locally-developed turbocharged 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine that is produced at the doomed Geelong engine plant, Mr Wilkinson noted a degree of irony that a performance engine was being awarded at a time when the focus is more on economy and environmental issues.

“Innovative design and control systems produced a very exciting engine,” said Mr Wilkinson of the turbo I6, which will be replaced by an imported V6 from 2010.

Gold Award winner Urbain du Plessis from Melbourne-based Hella Australia said he was quite surprised by the victory.

The expatriate South African, who established Hella’s mining division in 2002, said that the winning development – a flameproof lighting unit weighing some 15kg – is about to go into production and costs about $3000 each (with a typical vehicle carrying four of them).

Called MegaLUX, it was developed at Hella’s Mentone global product centre to provide a significantly safer lighting system for coal-mining machines working in hazardous areas underground where explosive gases are present.

This requires a cool exterior, more advanced electronic sensors and shutdown programs, and a perfectly sealed case so that methane gases present in the mines cannot enter and be ignited, with obvious dire consequences.

Mr du Plessis said he was surprised to have won the award, not only because of the contrasting engineering capacity of a company like Ford, but because mining vehicles are not regarded as mainstream automotive products, even though they have engines and rubber tyres.

Other SAE-A winners on the night were DV Experts, which won the bronze award for a light vehicle rollover protection system, and Aaron Cheong from Autoliv Australia, who won the Young Engineers Award for his innovative work on airbag design.

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