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‘One Ford’ puts Melbourne on world stage

True blue: Ford's T6 Ranger is one of several global Blue Oval products designed and engineered in Australia.

Australia now one of three global engineering hubs in Ford's empire

6 Apr 2011

FORD has underlined the key strategic importance of its Australian manufacturing and engineering operations, amid ongoing concerns surrounding falling Falcon sales and its future viability.

Speaking at the launch of the SZ Territory in Canberra this week, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa engineering director Jim Baumbick said the global ‘One Ford’ strategy had fundamentally changed the way the company created vehicles worldwide.

The outcome, he said, was around-the-clock work for Ford’s Broadmeadows and Geelong-based engineers as they created products for both local and international consumption, including a sub-B segment economy car for China that will not be sold in Australia.

The Melbourne-developed T6 Ranger and Figo light car – the latter a runaway success in India, with annual sales exceeding 75,000 units – were singled out as the only examples Ford could talk about now, although “many more projects are under development”, according to Mr Baumbick.

The Ohio-born Michigan resident said one of his main missions since arriving in Australia in 2008 had been melding Ford’s local operations into the global One Ford network while leveraging the Aussie team’s talent, experience and expertise.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Territory, Ford Figo, Ford Ranger aerodynamic modelling.

“I want to comment on how we are developing products under the One Ford policy and what it means for Australia and Asia Pacific,” he said.

“Our structure prior to 2008 was a very different business model to what we have today. At that time we developed fantastic products like Falcon and Territory … and were successful in the market place.

“But in 2008 the radical departure under One Ford (means big changes for) Australia and Asia Pacific … and our team has been identified as one of the key strategic hubs within the organisation, and so are responsible for all of the design and engineering for all products in the region (defined as APA – Australia, Asia Pacific and Africa, and includes India, China, the whole pacific rim and South America).

“It essentially puts in the investment to develop world-class (vehicles like Territory, Figo and T6) … and the Figo is really only one of the first products to come out of APA activity.

“There are eight key locations where we conduct engineering globally and there are three primary hubs – The Americas, Europe and APA centred here in Australia with a satellite facility in Nanjing China.

“All of these sites obviously operate in a very interconnected way, and One Ford means we don’t work in silos and we don’t work independent stand-alone engineering organisations – there’s a tremendous amount of interplay between the various organisations.

“It is a change in the way we do business, how we connect, discuss and share information globally across the organisation – and that includes Territory, which now benefits from this structure and practice.

“Our prior structure was very much vehicle specific – and while there was a benefit of that in terms of specific focus, there is now more of an opportunity for us to leverage our experience, learning and capabilities across a variety of different product lines … as well as functional disciplines … and it is much more effective and much more efficient.

“And there’s a wonderful natural synergy when you have he same people working on one product – they learn something and then they can immediately apply it to one or two or three products that they are working on simultaneously.

“But it’s not a one-way street. Our knowledge flow works both ways.

“Developing products in Australia is one of the most demanding environments to (do that in) ... and we leverage (Ford Australia’s) learnings – and they’re influencing the way we develop global products simultaneously.

“Doing simultaneous development and taking advantage of the lessons learned also allows us to manage the throughput in our facilities and use our assets most appropriately.

“And as these things are synchronised over time, it has enabled us to fill our factory – and we have been running (our proving ground) under 24 hour conditions because of the amount of work (Ford Australia) has.”

The comments were timed to offset the disastrous March 2011 VFACTS sales registration figures for Falcon.

Later Mr Baumbick described the changes to the upcoming Falcon revamp as “even more impressive” than those on the new midsized SUV.

So far this year FG sedan sales are down a worrying 40 per cent, prompting key Ford Australia personnel to talk up the upcoming Falcon’s changes as “game changing” in one instance.

Due out in October, the facelift will incorporate the liquid injection LPG tech released on the existing car this July, as well as the 2.0-litre Ecoboost four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that one insider confirmed will make the Falcon lighter and more agile than any Falcon of recent times.

Buoying Ford’s optimism are the extremely positive early reviews for the new Territory – especially the long-awaited diesel – while the March VFACTS figures were not all bad news, showing a massive upswing in sales for the Fiesta light car and Mondeo midsizer models, as well as solid performances for the outgoing Territory, Focus small car and Ranger one-tonne ute.

The latter will spearhead further expected volume revivals for Ford as their revamped or all-new successors come on stream.

Sales and marketing boss Beth Donovan told GoAuto that Ford Australia enjoyed combined four-cylinder vehicle success in March is the best since the halcyon days of the ‘bubble back’ KE Laser of the late 1980s – and this is before the arrival of the all-new Focus.

“We are enjoying record sales of Fiesta and Mondeo is going strong,” she said.

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