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Ford Mustang and GT supercar to ride on Aussie carbon wheels

New Ford Mustang and Ford GT supercar to ride on ‘world-first’ carbon-fibre wheels made in Australia.

It's not quite like selling ice to eskimos, but it's close. A little known company in Australia has taken on the global car industry with the most advanced wheels in the world.

A Geelong wheel manufacturer that started out in a household garage and an old shearing shed has won a multi-million-dollar contract to supply the world's most advanced wheels for some of the fastest cars on the planet.

Carbon Revolution, now based in a brand-new $25 million facility inside the Deakin University campus, will supply Ford in Detroit with the world's first ever mass-produced lightweight carbon-fibre wheels for the limited edition high performance Mustang 350-R and Ford's modern Ferrari-fighter, the low-slung GT supercar.

Although the regular Ford Mustang is due on sale in Australia before the end of the year, unfortunately the particular models fitted with the carbon-fibre wheels will not be sold locally, they're for the US only for now.

Carbon Revolution is one of 63 suppliers that will make parts locally for foreign Ford factories after the Broadmeadows car assembly line and the Geelong engine plant shut in October 2016.

No-one has been able to do what we've been able to do

It means more than half of Ford Australia's existing suppliers will remain in business, securing the jobs of an estimated 1000 workers in the parts supply base, even after Ford's factory closures.

Carbon Revolution has doubled to 100 the number of employees in the past 10 months, and more than half previously worked in nearby factories for Ford and aluminium company Alcoa.

The wheel company is the first in the world to perfect the technology to make carbon-fibre wheels as strong as alloy wheels.

"No-one has been able to do what we've been able to do," says the chief executive officer of Carbon Revolution, Jake Dingle. "Even the aerospace industry couldn't figure out a way to do it."

These wheels are stronger than alloy wheels

Ford heard about the start-up company by chance two-and-a-half years ago, and then began torture testing the wheels, including hitting pot holes at 100km/h to see if the wheels would shatter.

"A lot of people think they're going to turn to dust when they hit a pot hole, but these wheels are stronger than alloy wheels," says Jamal Hameedi, the global head of Ford Performance, who traveled from Detroit for the opening of the Geelong facility today.

"This shows Ford is prepared to go to the ends of the earth to get an advantage over our competitors," he said. "Make no mistake, this is a step change in the automotive world."

The wheels save a combined 30kg per car compared to one fitted with standard wheels; that might not sound like much but car makers spend millions to trim a fraction of that, because weight is the enemy of speed and agility.

Ford and Carbon Revolution won't say how much the wheels cost, only saying they are "several times" dearer than regular wheels.

But as Carbon Revolution ramps up production -- it hopes to make 50,000 wheels a year within two years -- the cost may come down and Ford may fit them to more cars.

In one of his first public outings as the Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne said with the closure of Australia's car factories "our future is exactly in this kind of advanced manufacturing".

"It's creating employment in the region at a time when it needs it most," said Minister Pyne. "We need to move our economy from old manufacturing … to new (types of) manufacturing."

Meanwhile Ford has committed to maintain a workforce of at least 1200 engineers and designers once its manufacturing plants shut down, which will eventually make Ford the single biggest automotive employer once Holden and Toyota also close their factories.

Holden will employ about 150 designers and 150 engineers to work on foreign cars, including some sold in Australia, while Toyota will also employ 150 engineers.

Joshua Dowling
National Motoring Editor
Joshua Dowling was formerly the National Motoring Editor of News Corp Australia. An automotive expert, Dowling has decades of experience as a motoring journalist, where he specialises in industry news.
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