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Ford, Holden and Toyota may have shut down Australian production, but engineering firm Premcar has taken on many former workers and is continuing to develop products suited specifically for local conditions.
Speaking to media, Premcar engineering director Bernie Quinn said Australian input was key to developing the Warrior program.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve done on the Warrior program,” he said. “It’s important to note for us that Nissan actually trusts us with their brand. They hand that (Navara PRO-4X) over to us and they trust that we will deliver something that’s befitting of their brand.
“To make sure that we do that job properly, we set out with Nissan to create, very early on, a set of brand criteria that we committed to meeting every time we put the Warrior brand on a vehicle, specifically what that means is it’s got to be fully validated.
“It has to be Australian developed by Australian engineers for Australian customers in Australian conditions.
“We can’t simply take a PRO-4X and make it more capable off-road at the expense of its on-road behaviour, that’s what happens most of the time when you do things like put a lift kit on a vehicle, you put different suspension on the vehicle, you put off-road tyres on a vehicle.
“That wasn’t acceptable for us.
“That’s where all our work goes into, making sure we don’t have any compromises, the bandwidth of capability is stretched, not moved.”
To ensure that the Navara PRO-4X Warrior is backed by Nissan’s five-year factory warranty, each component had to be carefully developed and tested to ensure adding parts of the vehicle are not compromised.
Suspension and tyres were a big part of development for Premcar, which also affects steering response and speedometer reading, with the latter addressed by a bespoke speedo control module developed in house that has been fully tested and validated.
“It’s not an easy job, and it’s not something you get in the aftermarket,” Mr Quinn said.
“There’s even some cars from the OE world that you can buy from dealers that don’t have that level of attention … that wasn’t acceptable for us.”
To ensure a high-quality product suited for Australia, Mr Quinn said Premcar employees many former engineers and staff members that had experience with local vehicle manufacturing and development from Ford, Holden and Toyota.
“There’s over 60- or 70-years’ worth of vehicle development history in this state (Victoria) and multiple proving grounds and test facilities we can go to,” he said.
“All the engineers we’ve either developed from scratch here at Premcar, getting them in as graduates, or sourced them from some of the OEs, so there’s GMH (General Motors Holden) people here, Toyota people here, there’s VinFast people here, there’s ex-Ford people here that understand the Australian customer, understand how to engineer something for Australian conditions, understand how to access all these proving grounds and do all the testing, understand what supplies to go for – so we are really lucky.
“There are 35 staff that are here on site specifically for the Warrior program, there’s a whole bunch of other staff doing other stuff, other exciting programs, some of them for Nissan.”
Finally, to ensure the components Premcar produces for the PRO-4X Warrior are of the highest calibre, Mr Quinn said a higher emphasis was put on sourcing parts locally when compared with the older N-Trek Warrior.
“We have increased the Australian content relative to the N-Trek Warrior, and there’s a few reasons for that,” he said.
“One is that we love to have our arms around the local supply base so that we can actually keep control of the supply and development a bit better.
“I’ll give you an example, we had a steel front safari bar but the steel substrate came from China, and when COVID first hit in China … we stopped getting supply of safari bar substrates.
“We’ve gone out of way to try and source components from Australia as much as possible, and the safari bar on this car (PRO-4X Warrior) is Australian sourced, it’s made here in Melbourne.
“I think the local content has gone from something like 60 per cent, right up well into the 80s on this car relative to the N-Trek Warrior.”
Though Premcar is currently working with Nissan on the Warrior program, Mr Quinn said he is open for work from any car brand, and has its history deeply rooted in developing go-fast Ford Faclons.
Of note, Ford Australia also maintains a prominent vehicle engineering team locally, which tests many overseas models and helped develop the current T6 platform that underpins the Ranger ute and not-for-Down-Under Bronco off-road SUV.