THE opening of an all-new proving ground in China has robbed Ford’s Australian proving ground of work – but it’s a move the top-secret You Yangs-based facility has welcomed.
Ford China last week announced it had opened the Nanjing Test Centre, a 66-hectare proving ground that features its own test track and an emissions-testing facility – two functions shared with Ford’s post-manufacturing role in Australia.
The car maker said the new eastern China test centre would help the company “speed up development of new products, services and technologies to better meet the driving requirements of customers in the region”.
“The NTC will enable Ford to develop the next generation of vehicles for China and Asia Pacific at a quicker pace than ever before,” it said.
“The centre includes close to 80 different types of real road surface conditions, a three-kilometre test track and a sophisticated emissions testing facility. It will also have a new laboratory for noise, vibration and harshness testing that will allow Ford to deliver vehicles that offer a smooth, quiet and relaxing driving experience.”
However, Nanjing’s opening was welcomed by Ford’s 900-hectare Australian facility, which will benefit from a less intense workload as a result.
“The opening of NTC will take some pressure off other global Ford proving grounds, including the You Yangs proving ground, which continue to support testing of vehicles for Chinese consumers,” Ford Australia spokesman Martin Gunsberg told Wheels, indicating the new Asian test facility would have a positive, rather than negative, effect here.
“Ford’s recently opened Asia Pacific product development centre based at Broadmeadows will continue to support new model programs for global markets and the centre remains the global lead for Ranger and Everest vehicles sold here in Australia,” he said.
“Ford’s global proving grounds, including the You Yangs proving ground, continue to support testing of vehicles for Chinese and Indian consumers.”
Ford’s Australian proving ground appears to have been instrumental in the development and tuning of the Chinese-market Ford Taurus midsize sedan, as well as a Ford Ka-based hatchback for India.
Late last year Ford tipped $450 million into its product development resources in Australia, including at the You Yangs proving ground.
“Recent and planned upgrades include new test facilities including durability, crash, noise vibration and harshness,” Gunsberg said. “We are also adding a new test area at the proving ground to support validation of a greater range of driver assist technologies.”
The Australian upgrade is expected to herald the introduction of even more driver-assist technologies for the Ford Ranger trade ute and the closely related Everest large SUV as they are updated in response to sharper competition – including the introduction next year of the Nissan Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
Four-cylinder turbo diesel versions of the X-Class will arrive in Australia next year priced – and equipped – as a premium choice for cab-chassis, single-cab and dual-cab ute buyers.
When they are launched in Australia late next year, the turbo-diesel V6-engined version of the X-Class is expected to become one of the most expensive trade utes on sale in Australia.
It will have a bit of competition for the title, though, with Ford planning to introduce a high-performance Raptor-badged version of the Ranger next year, and HSV believed to be about to unveil a more performance-honed version of the Holden Colorado later this week.