FORD Australia has played a leading role in designing what could become the best-selling car in China, but Ford's global bosses won't give Australians the credit for doing the work.
A skilled team of Australian stylists based at Broadmeadows in Victoria designed the sleek new version of the Ford Escort, which is intended to be built in China and sold alongside the Ford Focus - the best-selling car in the world’s biggest car market.
While the future of Ford Australia’s manufacturing operations remains in doubt beyond 2016 - following record-low sales and no application for government funding beyond that deadline - the company has gradually restructured its business to supply designers and engineers to the rest of the Ford world.
But when Ford executives were asked about Australia’s involvement in the car unveiled at the Shanghai motor show overnight, senior management of the company claimed it was a “global effort” with “some Australian input”.
Jim Farley, Ford’s global head of sales and marketing declined to nominate where the car was designed, as did the former boss of Ford Australia (and Geelong resident) Marin Burela, who is now based in China.
The Asia-Pacific boss of Ford, David Schoch, and the new design chief for Ford in the Asia Pacific region, Joel Piaskowski, also downplayed or refused to confirm Australia’s involvement.
Ford does not have a design studio in China; Australia is the nearest - and one of only five fully fledged design centres in the Ford world.
Australia’s design and engineering workforce has grown from a staff of 350 in the early 2000s to more than 1100 today, as the company takes on more work for the rest of the region.
Ford Australia has also sent up to 50 designers and engineers to China on assignment to help establish a new development centre there.
Kumar Kalhotra, Ford’s Asia Pacific product development chief, told News Limited: “Ford Australia isn’t designing products just for Australia, they’re designing products for the globe.” But he stopped short of revealing Australia’s involvement in the new Ford Escort.
When asked if Ford Australia wasn’t given more credit for the work on such an important car because other international divisions might take offence, Kalhotra said: “I don’t think it’s about offending anybody, it really is a total team effort.”
*Article sourced from the Sydney Morning Herald