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Interview with Ford Australia's Richard Woolley

By 4x4 Australia, 15 Jul 2018 Opinion

Interview with Ford Australia Richard Woolley opinion

What is it like to be an integral part of the development of some of the most exciting new off-road vehicles? Ford Australia’s Richard Woolley takes us behind the scenes.

MY ROLE is in product development and I am based at the Ford Asia Pacific You Yangs proving ground in Victoria. Integration is the key word within my job title; my team ensures all the performance targets and engineering requirements roll up and work together, to deliver what Ford expects in terms of overall performance and features.

There are four main pillars within my role: Water Management, Off-road Trailer Towing, Vehicle Integration Attribution, and Label Engineering.

Typically, during a development cycle, we set vehicle targets and work with the engineering parameters during the development stages. This culminates in vehicle level testing, development and sign-off prior to production.

It has been a very busy time at Ford in 2018, with the release of the new Ranger and Everest series, as well as the Ranger Raptor for the Asia Pacific market. We’re also involved in the new North American Ranger.

We’ve been busy completing reviews of owner’s guides, final calibration drives around off-road modes within the TMS (Terrain Management System), and trailer towing.

The off-road team has been out driving the vehicles at the limits to ensure robustness around all the final designs. We had completed a full suite of water management tests around wading capability and other water management tests, including wind tunnel tests to simulate high speed torrential rains.

Within a typical work week I use my time to review each vehicle program status. Where the team needs help with a particular issue, we work together to align the engineering teams with our suggested direction. Pulling the data together and presenting in a fashion that is clear takes a lot of effort and time.

Most people won’t realise that, here in Australia, we are working on vehicle lines in China, and supporting models that will come into the Asia Pacific market from Europe, India and North America. 

Within the off-road attribute, we have everything we need within the proving grounds, including a dedicated 4x4 park with rock sections, a mud and ruts area – which we can fill with water as required – many different hill grades, a sand pit, and other obstacle types.

This facility is large enough to test calibrations and hardware including suspension or underbody protection. We still complete all of our testing and sign-off in real world locations like the Victorian High Country, Simpson Desert and many others.

I have had many memorable experiences in this role. One of the highlights during the development of the Ranger Raptor was during a transit drive while on a test trip. We were travelling the road from Yunta into Arkaroola, in convoy, connected by radio signal.

At that time of year the road was quite smooth and in good condition. I jumped behind the wheel of the Ranger Raptor and off I went. Part of our safety process is to reset trip meters and GPS so we can call out cautions around road conditions, oncoming traffic or wildlife.

So I start calling cattle grids and culverts in the road and rating them for speed and harshness; to my surprise the following cars were re-calling them over the radio with higher harshness and soon after that we stopped getting any communication.

It soon dawned on me that the Raptor was soaking up the road at speed, and we had left the others behind. For me, it was a highlight of how capable the Ranger Raptor is in this environment.

I am very fortunate in this role to drive in some very iconic locations and tracks. The best part of my role, though, is meeting customers and having great conversations, getting feedback directly while out on the road. I can then take that information and feedback and translate it into future products.

Meet the Expert
Name: Richard Woolley
Role: Vehicle Integration Core Attributes Supervisor
Experience: “I’ve been with Ford for 30 years.”