Ford has turned its old Melbourne-based head office into an R&D centre, while confirming the company will be increasing Australian R&D investment by 50 per cent to $450 million in 2017.
Ford ended local manufacturing after 91 years in October, putting 580 people out of a job.
Ford says he ex-head office, now known as the Asia Pacific Product Development Centre, features "state-of-the-art virtual design and engineering capability", and is described as the "centrepiece" of what Ford are calling Australia's most advanced automotive development campus.
Ford is increasing its Australian team next year to 2,000 people, including 1750 engineers, designers and technicians.
"Ford is investing heavily in new products and mobility solutions globally to make our customers' lives better, and Australia is a key centre of innovation for us," said Mark Fields, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. "The Australian team will build on their key role leading development of the global Everest SUV and Ranger pickup by creating more world-class vehicles and bringing even more fuel efficiency and safety innovations to customers."
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt MP, said the "significant" investments by Ford "are a clear indication of the future direction and great opportunities for the automotive industry in Australia."
Minister Hunt said the future of advanced manufacturing in Australia lies in value-adding activities from product concept, research and development, design and efficient production systems, highlighting that being part of the global automotive supply chain and R&D process is important for jobs and local business opportunities.
But what is actually going to happen there?
Here's the word from Ford:
The new Asia Pacific Product Development Centre will benefit from Ford's Cave Automated Virtual Environment, which allows Ford engineers to work in a detailed virtual environment to improve speed and efficiency.
As part of the separate $50 million investment, Ford is expanding and enhancing several other key facilities, including:
- Expansion of the Ford Asia Pacific Design Studio in 2017, including increasing the modeling capacity and nearly doubling the state-of-the-art milling area with the addition of a new five axis mill.
- Upgrades to the company's 950-hectacre Lara Proving Ground outside Geelong. It will feature new test facilities including durability, crash, noise vibration and harshness. Ford also is adding a new test area at the proving ground to support validation of a greater range of driver assist technologies.
- New maker space within the Broadmeadows development campus to help employees pursue even more innovations much like the company's TechShop in the U.S., which helped Ford patent more ideas in 2016 than any other automaker.
- Upgrades to Ford' s emissions testing laboratory as the company invests significantly in fuelsaving to help customers save at the pump while meeting stringent emissions standards.