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NY Auto Show: Ford and Top Hats

Posted by: David Kiley on March 21, 2008


Ford Motor Co. is amidst an overhaul of its global product development process to make it more efficient and cost effective. The 2009 Fiesta, for example, to be launched in Europe this Fall and in North America a year later, is on one common global platform with slightly different “top-hats” of sheet metal and trim.

The automaker is taking things a step further, report sources, with the next generation Ford Fusion and Mondeo (pictured above). The Mondeo is a sedan/wagon sold in Europe. It has been common knowledge that Ford plans to develop the cars commonly for the future. But this week, product planners and designers who wanted unique “top-hats” for the two cars got the news that the two will be the same car with the same hat.

The planners were over-ruled by CEO Alan Mulally and head marketer Jim Farley. The expected savings of doing the same car should be around $300 million to $450 million in costs.

Some are worried that the same car won’t fly in both markets. But that flies in the face of Mulally’s favorite benchmark, Toyota, which sells a global Corolla and Camry.

It will be interesting to see who leads on design and what the outcome will be. Ford Europe chief designer Martin Smith handled the design of the Mondeo, which is a considerably slicker design than the Fusion. While the Fusion is a respectable piece of work, it was made a bit softer and flabbier to meet the sensibilities that Ford designers feel its American buyers look for.

Reader Comments


March 21, 2008 4:41 PM

Alan Mulally should fire J.Mays (whose idea of originality begins and ends, ironically, with retro designs) and Peter Horbury (who, admittedly, did a good job at Volvo) and name Martin Smith boss of Ford Design globally. There! More cost savings and reduced redundancy, plus the entire Ford world gets to benefit from the attractive Ford of Europe designs. It's a no-brainer.

P.S. to Patrick Schiavone, Ford's chief truck designer: I think you tried too hard with the F-150's redesign. There's a place for "elegance" in the truck world as well as "toughness".


March 21, 2008 5:27 PM

Yet another handsome car the Europeans get. I hope the hat and other exterior changes don't screw this one up! Ford has a long-standing record for its poor taste and cheapening of its vehicles. This costs sales that ads and slogans cannot compensate for. Word of mouth is a very positive selling tool. Just consider what it has done over the years for Toyota and Honda, Mazda as well. Even that crackpot blogger, Whozitts, bitching and whining about SLUDGE formation in the engines of certain Toyotas and Lexus cars has become naught but a laughing stock, not Toyota. Good thing for him his campaigns have been for free or he would be out some bucks, and all the nothing.

Selling certain models globally makes perfect sense, again Toyota is serving as a model. the vehicles are massaged to meet local demands, ours being about the most difficult, but it has all worked out well. On the other hand, there is no way to deal with a monstrous F150, 250, whatever to make it suitable for anyone but us. Toyota has this market too. but it does not include the Tundra for obvious reasons, as superior to the fords as it is. Elephantism just does not appeal to most.


March 24, 2008 11:20 AM

Hmm... do I detect the Infiniti G35 headlights, an Audi A4 rear and the aggressive strokes of an Acura TL on the sides?

Dearborn Observer

March 25, 2008 3:35 PM

Mulally's obsessiveness over utilizing a shared CD/D-car tophat for both the US and Europe is misplaced. No one that is successful does it! For example:

Toyota - US has the Camry, Europe gets its unique Avensis

Honda - the US and Europe get distinctly different versions of the Accord (although the Euro version comes here as a Acura TSX)

Mazda - the next generation Mazda6 will have different tophats in the US and Europe (Mazda has a shared tophat right now, and it doesn't well work for Europe)

At the end of the day, mainstream US and European customers have different needs and size constraints. Ford learned this the hard way with its Ford Mondeo/Contour/Mystique debacle in the '90s, and VW is experiencing the pain today with its slow-selling new Passat. But at Ford, history repeats itself...


March 25, 2008 4:34 PM

To the credit of Ford's planners, Corolla and Camry are no longer truly global. The volume compact in Europe for Toyota is now the Auris, which shares no sheetmetal or major visible parts with our Corolla. The Camry isn't even sold in Europe; their family sedan is the Avensis. That being said, there's a case to be made for offering similar vehicles in the US and China, but perhaps Toyota found out American and European tastes are too different. Note that VW has talked about a new compact and new midsize sedan for the US which appear to be different from Europe's Golf and Passat.


March 27, 2008 7:50 PM

Reasons for the variety of models offered for sale in different spots around the world vary with 'practicality' being one of the leaders. But sometimes it is the naming that differs, perhaps a bit of trim here and there, nothing more. Meeting USA 'demands' is challenging, often the reason we do not get some of the great cars sold elsewhere, those sharing 'platforms' if not a great deal more. I well recall riding in a small late 80's Cad outside Nagoya and the sawing necessary to make the corners. This and power-flipping in the side mirror to pass on a narrow road outside Kyoto in the same '89 Accord we sold here--but for the RHD. At that time the Lexus 250 was the Celsior Windham.

We should have received the Euro-spec Mondeo with proper bumpers and air bags, etc. The Contour and Mystique went nowhere, but then they were nothing American-spec cars.

As to Random's nonsensical comments, I trust he/she has no idea just how long it takes to design and set up to produce something. One does not just go out and see a taillight and decide to copy it on next week's new model introduction. Second-guessing is an olde game, an easy one as well.

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