The Ford brand will continue rolling off on Australian roads but it remains uncertain if the same applies on the carmaker's local production lines.
Ford Australia president and chief executive Bob Graziano unveiled on Tuesday the company's new virtual-reality car engineering design tool at the Broadmeadows facility in Melbourne, which he touted as representative of Ford's edge in the design and engineering aspect of global car-making.
The half-a-million dollar system, Mr. Graziano said, would provide for 'real-feel' of upcoming Ford models for the company's engineers and allow them 'hands-on tinkering' on the vehicles prior to their actual assembly.
The top man for Ford also underscored that while the manufacturing phase of vehicles normally attracts the most attention, the research and development thrust "is where it all begins."
"We believe you can have research and development without manufacturing. It clearly helps to have manufacturing and we're very fortunate in that we have manufacturing, research and development and a stunning test facility," Mr Graziano was reported by Fairfax as saying yesterday.
His comments immediately touched off speculations that the Ford big boss was actually dropping hints of the company's imminent plans of closing down its manufacturing facilities in Australia, which mainly roll out the Falcon and Territory models.
The struggling firm has already listed close to 700 Geelong and Broadmeadows workers as candidates for likely axing later this year, moves that Ford said were part of its streamlining efforts to prevailing market conditions.
Despite getting federal and state subsidies earlier this year, Ford has also refused to map out its production plans beyond 2016.
And the latest words that were uttered by Ford's CEO were definitely cause of concern for the carmaker's workforce, according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).
But Ford spokeswoman Sinead Phipps said today that Mr Graziano was not even intending to send some cryptic messages through the declarations he made yesterday.
In an interview with ABC Radio on Wednesday, Ms Phipps said Ford was not into business of sparking speculations on its plans, refusing at the same time to answer queries relating to Ford's new Australian business focus.
"There was no hint implied in any way, shape or form," Ms Phipps clarified.
She went on to explain that Mr Graziano's remarks were attuned on the design component of car manufacturing, in which Ford clearly enjoys a significant lead over its competitors, especially in the Asia-Pacific and African regions.
"He further went on to clarify that we believe we're lucky in Australia that we have all three vehicle development stages here, that we can design and engineer, we can manufacture and we can test here," Ms Phipps recalled.
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