SYDNEY Dec 22 Ford Motor Co said on
Thursday it will boost spending on design capability in
Australia by A$150 million ($109 million) in 2017 at a plant
where the company shuttered production in October.
Ford ended 91-years of making cars in Australia when it
closed its production line in the Melbourne suburb of
Broadmeadows amid a decline in Australian manufacturing and the
dwindling popularity of the big sedans it made there.
The company will now spend a total of A$500 million on
Australian research and development over three years, it said in
a statement. It will spend A$450 million in 2017, an increase of
A$150 million compared with last year, and A$50 million over
three years to upgrade design and testing facilities.
Ford's Australian design facility is one of three "key
centres" capable of full vehicle development worldwide,
alongside Detroit, Michigan and Cologne, Germany, spokesman Wes
Sherwood told Reuters.
Ford spent $6.7 billion on research and development globally
in 2015, according to its 2015 annual report, and a fortnight
ago announced it would borrow $2.8 billion to spend on
developing new technology.
"Ford, like the other big carmakers in the US, got caught
making too big cars that were a bit outdated and they're still
scrambling to catch up," said Michael Rafferty, an associate
professor at the school of management at the Royal Melbourne
Institute of Technology University.
Rival auto makers GM Holden and Toyota are
set to follow Ford and close down their Australian production
lines next year, acting on decisions taken in 2013 when the
Australian dollar was above parity against the U.S. dollar,
making local manufacturing expensive.
($1 = 1.3810 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Stephen Coates)