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Ford tips it will be our top brand

Ford is well advanced with a survival strategy.

Ford says its future is focussed on high-tech engineering and design work, including development of a range of offshore models as part of the One Ford global production plan. It already employs more than 1000 people at Broadmeadows who are not tied to carmaking, has just re-activated its university hiring program, and this week announces an upgrade to the virtual reality laboratory in Melbourne.

"Our overall plan is to grow. That's what people don't understand," the spokesman for Ford Australia, Wes Sherwood, tells Carsguide. "We'll have the largest automotive employment after 2017. There will be 1500 jobs, with 1100 of those in design and engineering."

Even though it was the first to pull the pin on its local manufacturing operation, or perhaps because of it, Ford is already well advanced with a survival strategy. The company's development team has already created the Ranger ute and Everest SUV for production in Thailand, developed a baby Figo for Ford of India, and is working on a born-again Escort for China.

And those are just the projects we know about. "They are working on some of the most advanced products and technologies in the world," Sherwood says of the development team.

In the past, Ford Australia has been a closed shop when it comes to comment about its offshore efforts. But Sherwood and company president Bob Graziano know they have to spread the message about the future before the Falcon and Territory become part of the past.

And it's not just the people who are already embedded outside the corporate headquarters in Broadmeadows. Ford Australia has just re-started its university hiring progam for an intake in 2015 and is also looking to sponsor promising students. "We will bring in some fresh blood and new ideas. And we've re-started our university research projects. We're already looking at connectivity and lightweighting," says Sherwood.

But Ford Australia is not just worrying about its own future. It has just sponsored a 'supplier fair' to help smaller companies build connections to overseas Ford projects and bigger suppliers to the blue oval brand. A total of 40 Australian companies were involved with 17 regional suppliers.

"Nine of them have earned regional or global business," Sherwood says. "It was a really impressive event. We made all the connections." And he says that there are plenty of opportunities, as suppliers in high-cost countries such as Germany and Japan have proven. "There are advanced mature markets around the globe with similar issues to Australia who have been able to supply and innovate."

This reporter is on Twitter: @PaulWardGover