Ford Plans to Get Bolder
Its scored several recent hits, shored up its balance sheet and scored a victory in the North American Truck of the Year competition, but Ford continues to draw criticism for its conservative – many would say, bland – designs and older powertrains. That’s not an entirely unfair criticism, acknowledged CEO and family heir Bill Ford, during an auto show media briefing. But “it is changing,” he quickly added. “We will stretch more, not only in design, but in powertrains.” With the company’s balance sheet improving and its management ranks stabilized, Ford continued, “We have a clearer vision and we’ll take more shots.” For his part, COO Jim Padilla suggested that the automaker’s Swedish subsidiary, Volvo, could serve as a role model. “Look how Volvo has evolved in the last four or five years. That’s a vision of how we plan to go forward.” It doesn’t hurt, of course, that former Volvo styling chief Peter Horbury recently moved to Dearborn to become director of design for Ford in North America.
…While Mays Might Get British
What about J Mays, the global styling chief responsible for the conservative look of products like the Ford Five Hundred sedan? Mays was recently reassigned to London, though Bill Ford insisted, “he’s not been banished.” The CEO suggested that from his new outpost, Mays will be in a better position to watch design trends, and “not just automotive,” helping incorporate them into future Ford vehicles. One of those upcoming products just might be the new Ford Fairlane, a stylish wagon/SUV crossover that suggests what the automaker might do to supplement or even replace its unloved Freestar minivan. The idea for that vehicle, CEO Ford revealed, came from a discussion between Mays and fashion czar Ralph Lauren.