Although Ford, Holden and Toyota have ceased car manufacturing in Australia, the homegrown talent that previously worked for these companies continues to prosper.

    Gomotiv is a Melbourne-based design firm that was founded in 2020 as a division of the Outerspace Design group, and now has a team of 23 people including ex-Ford, General Motors, JLR, Kia and Toyota employees.

    The automotive design firm most recently penned a wild-looking and Ford Ranger-sized electric ute concept for Vietnamese carmaker VinFast that was revealed at this year’s CES tech show in Las Vegas.

    Gomotiv has also worked with companies including Chery, Ford, Lightforce, and Premcar, among others, doing creative design, digital sculpting, studio engineering, and also visualisation work.

    “Our whole philosophy has been that there’s no reason why Australia shouldn’t have a world class design studio, given the depth of talent that’s in Australia,” said Gomotiv director Robert Thorpe.

    “So I guess that’s sort of the main reason why the studio was set up.

    “We’re just so passionate about doing this work and doing this work here in Australia. The team we’re working with, right at the moment, is one of the best teams I’ve worked with.

    Mr Thorpe previously worked for General Motors for close to 17 years and for the last six years of his employment there was the associate director at the Advanced Design Studio in California.

    Justin Thompson, who is currently the Gomotiv design director, also previously worked for General Motors for 21 years. He most notably was involved in designing the VF Commodore, as well as a wealth of Chinese GM models.

    “At the moment we’ve sort of somewhat lost our identity because there is no car market. We don’t produce any vehicles that are sold locally or overseas,” said Mr Thompson.

    “I think that’s what we’re trying to do with Gomotiv is to be able to maintain these skills and ability so that we can develop and design products for our market and other markets.”

    Although one of Gomotiv’s key motives is fostering and nurturing existing local car design talent, the company is also working on making sure this talent is passed on to the next generation.

    “The other flip side of this is we do have some more junior staff members on the team as well and that was a conscious decision on our part very early on,” said Mr Thorpe.

    “We wanted to make sure that there’s pathways for students coming from university who want to get into design professional careers.

    Mr Thorpe explained he has been “blown away” by what Gomotiv’s junior staff members have achieved and that he “doesn’t consider them junior anymore”.

    “They’re really contributing on real programmes and that’s something we’re quite passionate about,” said Mr Thorpe.

    “We really do believe that there is something unique about Australian design and being able to deliver quality design efficiently.”

    Beyond Gomotiv, Ford Australia continues to design and develop new cars at its design studio in Melbourne even after having ended local manufacturing in 2016.

    This facility first opened in the 1970s, with every generation of Falcon from the 1972 XA on having been designed here. More recently, designers at the Melbourne studio have penned the current-generation Ford Ranger and Everest.

    Ford Australia announced in 2021 it had completed a $12 million expansion of its design studio. At the time it also claimed to have more than 2500 engineers, designers, technical and automotive specialists.

    Last year Ford Australia announced a series of redundancies. The latest in June 2023 saw approximately 400 redundancies in its vehicle development and design departments, equal to more than 20 per cent of its remaining workforce in these areas.

    The job cuts in June last year were part of “Ford’s global drive to improve efficiency”, whereas a previous reduction of 250 employees in April 2023 was due to attrition related to the end of the Ranger and Everest development cycle.

    Despite the repeated moves to downsize its staff roster, Ford says Australia remains the company’s global hub for design and development for the Ranger and Everest.

    Local car manufacturing ceased in Australia on October 20, 2017 when the final Holden Commodore rolled off the company’s production line in Elizabeth, South Australia.

    MORE: Australians designed this VinFast electric ute concept

    Jack Quick

    Jack Quick is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne. Jack studied journalism and photography at Deakin University in Burwood, and previously represented the university in dance nationally. In his spare time, he loves to pump Charli XCX and play a bit of Grand Theft Auto. He’s also the proud owner of a blue, manual 2020 Suzuki Jimny.

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