Professionals Australia has urged both the Victorian and Commonwealth ministers for manufacturing to recognise and support Ford’s move from manufacturing to an R&D future in Australia.
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton said that given the Productivity Commission had now passed its final report on automotive manufacturing to the Federal Government for consideration it was important that the Government did not disrupt Ford’s plans to move to develop engineering and design operations in Australia, through changes to existing funding arrangements.
“Ford is an Australian engineering success story. The company has made it clear that it plans to develop its Australian operations as a key centre of design and engineering excellence,” Mr Walton said.
“However, as Ford makes its transition from manufacturing to an R&D focus, we can’t afford for the Federal Government to make any changes to the existing Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS) (government funding) arrangements.
“Ford is leading by example, and its success in this space, is likely to encourage future investment from other companies in Australia’s world-class engineers.
“There is still a real opportunity to capitalise on the research and innovation capacity of Australia’s automotive engineers.
In a clear indication of its strong commitment to engineering and design in Australia, Ford has recently increased its investment in its Australian operations, both fiscally and strategically, by saying:
“We are committing to Australia being one of our product development centres of excellence, where designers and engineers (develop) vehicles and technologies for the world” – Ford Motor Company Chief Executive and President, Alan Mulally.
“As the industry transitions, we expect to become the country’s largest auto employer by 2018 – something we take great pride in considering this will include about 1,500 highly skilled employees across professions such as engineering and design.” – Ford Australia CEO, Bob Graziano.
Key to these plans, the Ford recently announced its plans to upgrade the Ford Virtual Reality Centre in Melbourne. This investment will ensure Ford can continue designing vehicles, such as the wildly successful Ranger Ute and Everest SUV, in Australia, using Australian engineers and designers.
However, one of the key factors to Ford’s development in Australia is access to government concessions – mainly, through the Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS). ATS applicants, including Ford, are currently eligible to claim a concession for eligible investment in research and innovation.
Access to the ATS increases the global competitiveness of Ford Australia’s Product Development operations (currently employing over 1,100 Australians); meaning it is more likely to be awarded new design and engineering projects.
Mr Walton said that Professionals Australia had made strenuous arguments to both the Victorian and Federal Governments to ensure funds that support research and innovation remain in place.
“As a country, we can’t afford to do anything that may jeopardise Ford’s plans to develop innovation and engineering in Australia.
“By 2017, Ford will no longer be a Motor Vehicle Producer (MVP) in Australia. It is crucial that the organisation’s transition to an R&D-future be secured now, for the sake of our economy and the future of high-value-add manufacturing in Australia.
“Our entire automotive manufacturing industry has left our shores – we now need to ensure that our research, design and innovation capacities do not leave with it.