Ford Australia is positioning for a busy 2021 and beyond, recently expanding its high-tech design studio to accommodate more than 200 designers working on Ford vehicles for Australia and global markets.
The multi-year, $12 million facelift continues Ford’s ongoing investment in Australia, where more than 2,500 of the company’s engineers, designers, technical and automotive specialists are based, which will also benefit from another $2.3 million in additional studio technology infrastructure by the end of 2021.
As the home of some of the most iconic Ford vehicles ever produced in Australia, the Ford Design Studio in Melbourne plays an important role in Ford’s global business portfolio. Max Wolff, Design Director for Ford International Markets Group and China, said: “The design studio underwent a minor refurbishment in 2012. This time around, the whole building has been redesigned. It has been structured around supporting our design process and our team, enabling them to work in a modern, creative environment.”
The design studio was originally built in the 1970s and has been the birthplace of some iconic Fords like the XA Falcon, XD Falcon, FG Falcon and of course, the Australian designed and engineered Territory SUV. Today, it is the global lead studio for the Ranger pickup and Everest SUV. The studio also had significant input into the design of vehicles sold in other markets like South America, China and India.
While acknowledging the studio’s important historic past, Wolff said the new facility looked to the future, incorporating improved leading-edge technologies. “We have a new Virtual Reality review space, which is a key tool for the Visualisation team, and a five-axis gantry mill that is integral to the work of the clay modelling team.”
Clay modelling, the backbone of vehicle design for years, has been given a new lease of life at Ford Australia. The studio’s team of 40 clay modellers can now use cutting-edge digital technologies to speed up the design process.
“The new five-axis gantry mill is an interface between the physical and digital worlds, taking information from the computer and quickly and accurately translating it into the physical with a greater level of detail. We can also feed that information back into the computer’s digital models,” added Wolff.
Critical to the facility’s overall design were new break-out areas and collaborative spaces, fewer individual offices and more natural light, which Wolff said helped the creative process and collaboration. With natural light an important part of the design process, Genton designed a 1,110 m2 internal courtyard where vehicles could be privately viewed outdoors.
The Ford Australia Design Centre has fostered some incredible Australian design talent over the years and continues to be an important part of the company’s annual graduate program, with more than 10 design graduates coming from the country’s leading universities currently working in the studio. Also, some of the designers are now working throughout the Ford global organisation.
The company has invested more than AU$1.9 billion in research and development in Australia between 2016 and 2019. In 2020 alone, Ford invested more than AU$500 million in R&D and the company is on track to spend a similar amount in 2021.