How Ford juggles product design in Europe and the U.S. to produce world cars
Ford of Europe product development boss Barb Samardzich: "[We are] looking at how the next-generation B-car and C-car will meet all the demands."
The Fiesta subcompact, launched in 2008, was the first true world car developed by Ford Motor Co. under its One Ford product plan. In 2011, Ford followed up with its second world car, the Focus compact. For the first time in its history, Ford was designing vehicles to be sold in the United States, Europe and Asia with just minor local adaptations. The world car strategy is the key to the One Ford global organization that Alan Mulally put in place after he was named CEO in 2007. Barb Samardzich, vice president of product development at Ford of Europe, explained how the company's European product development team coordinates with the U.S. team. Here are highlights of her interview with Automotive News Europe Editor-in-Chief Luca Ciferri.
Under the One Ford global product development organization, what are Ford of Europe's responsibilities?
In Europe we're responsible for compact car platforms [like the Focus]; subcompact Fiesta-sized vehicles; and commercial vehicles [such as the Transit].
And what is North America responsible for?
They are responsible globally for [mid-sized] vehicles like our Mondeo. Then they have a lot of regional products, [such as] the D-car platform for SUVs, traditional cars like Taurus and several Lincolns, as well as the F-Series trucks.
How do Ford's satellite engineering facilities interact with the two hubs that develop Ford's platforms in Europe and North America?
Both regions use some of our satellite engineering facilities in lower-cost regions like South America and Mexico. We have a huge relationship with our Otosan [joint venture] partner in Turkey. We do a lot of development work there to support our Transit vehicles as well as our powertrain development.
Are Europe and North America ultimately responsible for platform architectures?
Yes, architecturally the platforms are centered either in North America or Europe. But there is regional expertise that we leverage in those satellite offices. In Brazil, for example, ethanol often is the fuel of choice. They have the expertise to develop the hardware to support this.
What does it mean to be responsible for an architecture?
You own the current architecture and the future vision for that architecture. So [the European team] is looking at how the next-generation B-car and C-car will meet all the demands from consumers, government and the environment.
But design responsibilities can get tangled. For example, the EcoSport small SUV was developed in Brazil, and production will begin in India. But the vehicle is based on the Fiesta platform, which is "owned" by Ford of Europe.
The B car is our platform, so the team in Europe would have supported them with platform changes. All the top-hat [car body] design and all the interior design was managed by our team in South America. Different regions support us with top-hat work or interior work, but we're ultimately responsible for that product globally.
Do you have other examples of car bodies and interiors developed in different regions?
Well, we haven't launched some of these products yet, so I can't give too much detail about them. But we do have regional C-cars and B-cars that are being done with our team in China. So again you're leveraging local expertise.
Was North America fully responsible for the new Mondeo, which is the European version of the U.S. Fusion?
North America had the lead, but worked closely with the European team to meet European customer needs. The biggest difference between a North American Fusion and a European Mondeo is in body styles. Here in Europe a five door and a wagon are the most popular variants. In North America, the Fusion is only a four-door. And then, of course, the Mondeo has diesel engines.
Is all diesel development handled by Europe, or does Ford develop the big truck engines in the United States?
When Ford decided to develop a diesel engine for our large Super Duty pickup, the work was done in the United States. We actually leveraged the European team to help train some of the engineers in North America to deliver that engine.
How is gasoline engine development divided between Europe and the United States?
In Europe, we develop gasoline engines from 1.0 to 2.0 liters. Higher displacement V-6s and V-8s are made in North America. But again, the work lines have gotten so blurred now that it really is a function of what work the team is doing in one region.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at firstname.lastname@example.org.