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NY Auto Show: Of Ford and Top Hats

Posted by: David Kiley on March 20, 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 20, 2008 11:44 AM

There are at least two working models of how to handle so-called 'nuclear waste' both safely and very economically, USA-tech actually, but shredded and tossed out by Mr. Green, Big Al Gore. Both France and Japan reprocess and then reuse the 'spent' fuel. The result is a tiny residue that can then be stored a few years as it 'cools'

In the car biz, Toyota is the model (one of them) as Mulally and Farley know. Why is the concept of 'world-cars' so hard to sell within the company? Seems to me that not realizing the wisdom in this scheme and climbing aboard is grounds for divorce. The Mondeo pictured is a hand-some car, perhaps the finest Ford has come up with in that class of vehicle. From my perspective, those poo-pooing the name Fiesta can take a hike too. Seems like opposition for the sake of opposing. Congress vs President Bush redux.

Roger Hennigh

March 20, 2008 12:48 PM

Ford needs to WAKE UP. Of course it can develop a global car which will sell in Europe AND the US. Doesn't it watch BMW, Mercedes, VW, Audi, and others? ALL of those German companies sell essentially the same model lines on both continents, and even in China.

Come on Ford (GM & Chrysler too) - stop making "softer and flabbier" cars for the US market, and you might actually attract some serious buyers like myself. I love my BMW 3 series, but would prefer to consider a US brand if it were of the same caliber.


March 21, 2008 9:17 PM

I urge Ford to take this same approach with the Fiesta and Focus. The idea of spending capital to develop a sedan (US)version of the Fiesta, when 3 and 5-door cars are already done, is utter nonsense. Mr. Mullaly, follow your instinct and sell the hatchback Fiestas in the U.S. Save that development capital for some better use. (Perhaps a seven pass. version of the Transit, selling at a lower price point than the $30K Flex.) Don't listen to the U.S. guys - they're the ones that developed the weak cars in your showroom now.

Gary Paul

March 24, 2008 8:17 PM

Mulally is correct again as is so often the case (and so is Farley). Mulally himself said that he will start with the idea that F O R D is an American icon and a worldwide brand as well, and it needs to be nurtured and directed toward success here in the US, because there is plenty of respect for the brand in many parts of the world such as Brazil, Europe, and Australia. ...And because the heritage of Ford envisions the great Model T and so many other worthy vehicles from European Mondeos to 1961-69 Lincoln Continentals to 1985 Mustang GTs, and that heritage is worth saving!

Mulally equally claimed that we have to look at the REALITY of the situation and that Ford USA needed to recognize the weakness of its business plan! In fact it was atrocious, and did not take advantage of the opportunities presented by Ford's worldwide footprint after numerous attempts to do so in the past---in short it was acting like a set of independent kingdoms instead of an worldwide Goliath maximizing its assets and able to develop products that could sell worldwide like Toyota has done.

Can Ford sell all of its European products in USA and elsewhere?---of course not, but plenty of them can be sold worldwide if they are designed from the start to adapt regional differences in emission/safety/regulations. Occasionally there may be a need to change grills or other design aspects if a regional concern develops (such as a Chinese populous that hates the look of a certain grill---as has occurred before with Ford products), or make other relatively minor alternations.

I worked with product planners as an intern at a German auto company and they were nice enough but did not impress me as knowledgeable. The guy who knew the most about product there was me and one other guy (...who left to work at a bank. Nice guy but not a real car guy for sure!). They often struck me as uneducated regarding their own product heritage, the knowledge of their competition, and displayed a general disinterest in automobiles. I often wonder about the objections of product planners regarding development of a worldwide vehicle, or at least a design that is sold in a more expansive number of worldwide areas. Or maybe these planners are gun shy to do anything that might take real effort and force integration and cooperation with product planners across the pond and in Asia. Ford for decades has been filled with middle management dead wood that does as little as possible to keep their positions and you guys at Ford doing part of your colleague's work load know it! There should be plenty more openings at Ford in the near future as the rotting wood is fettered out and thrown into the trash heap (let go as they say).

It's important to realize that some Americans may find "European design" a bit hard to take at first, but Ford will just have to accept that and let the excellence of its products convince the world and Americans of their superior features and benefits… They almost achieved this with the Focus brought over from Europe 9 years ago but blew it with substandard quality, not the exterior design! There indeed may be some resistance to these new Ford products in some parts of the world but Ford has to take advantage of the efficiencies of a worldwide product like Toyota does and do it NOW, and not let anyone stop this drive for efficiency and competitiveness. Lets encourage Ford to go forward with ideas like this with all due speed. If not Ford might as well turn out the light and let Toyota become America's car company!


June 1, 2008 12:02 PM

I live in England and can only comment that Ford cars sold here are superb.

I have a Mondeo Estate (station wagon)2.0 TDCI Ghia and it is fast,(130mph 0-60 in 9.5 seconds) big (bigger interior than the Mercedes E class) and does an average of 45 Miles per Imperial gallon (1 and 1 third US gallons)because its a diesel

It is refined and handles superbly.

We have just ordered a new Fiesta for my wife and when we had a test drive just loved it for it's room,fun drive and economy yet with a classy interior

Ford Europe make superb cars - Our American friends should try them - they won't be dissapointed


June 9, 2008 1:57 PM

I just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe and was totally blown away when I saw the Mondeo. I could not believe my eyes. If Ford wants to do better in the American market, it better begin offering the styling that I saw in the Mondeo. I am absolutely convinced that those of us who consistently by Japanese cars would give Ford a look if they brought this kind of styling to the US. When will the folks at Ford ever learn?


June 26, 2008 11:51 PM

I simply can't understand what aspect of the american market would prefer a Fusion (which is decent) to the Mondeo (which is awesome).

What about all the American consumers who buy Camry's, Volvos, BMW, Mercedes, etc? All of those consumers want a nicer car than Ford makes. US Ford models are sloppy and gross. I am American and would much prefer the European versions.

I think its not consumer preference that is driving this but that Ford US may not have the manufacturing chops to deliver the European versions which look more advanced. The same may be said for Fords US supply chain.

Finally, sadly, maybe the European Fords simply cost more to make and US consumers, and Ford customers specifically would not be able to afford the more expensive European Ford models.


July 20, 2008 11:55 AM

I have been waiting for years for Ford to either bring the Falcon from Australia or the Mondeo from Europe because of it's styling. I own a Nissan Altima and I tried all cars in the same class and nother made by Ford or GM could hold a stick to it's styling and bang for the buck factor. This is what Ford needs to do.


September 13, 2008 11:32 AM

its good but there is never end for the car we need more better and they give more perfect its an end less story of the cars


October 26, 2008 12:01 PM

I have read on several boards over several years the desire for the Mondeo in the US. It is simply a fine looking car, one that Americans would love. It's beyond stupid as to why Ford hasn't brought to US shores yet. It would sell.


November 3, 2008 1:21 PM

Nice strategy: Design a nice car for one market and sell an uglier one in another market.

How about using the money saved on a joint development and putting it more on the one good effort. Why spend more money on coming up with a poorer performing and uglier Focus instead of selling the better European one in North America as well?

Matt High

November 17, 2008 5:39 PM

The Mondeo, Fiesta, Focus and C-Max are overdue by at least 2 years. These cars will do extremely well in the states. I have worked with US auto dealers for the last 10 years and I know these are cars that will move off the showroom floor. With Chrysler and GM not introducing anything of relevance next year this is a critical opportunity for Ford to take market share. Selling more product, reducing development cost? What a novel idea.


January 14, 2009 6:26 PM

It's about time Ford brings these nice designs over to the States. Quality is getting better so how about better looking cars? I was even looking at a '09 Mazda6 yesterday, which looks like the Mondeo in the picture above. Why? Because the Focus and Fusion are ugly and I own two Toyotas and a Mazda3. But will be in the market soon to replace an 02 Camry, which by the way, had been recall-free since I bought it in '03. Wouldn't mind driving a Ford again but a slick design like the one in this forum might eventually convince me!


May 23, 2009 7:29 PM

Ford builds some of the best stuff in Europe, and down under in Australia. I'm eagerly anticipating the Fiesta on US soil (and pray they don't change even ONE MOLECULE of what we've seen of the European version) Leave it well enough ALONE!!! Hopefully the three door version will follow soon enough after the five door. I wasn't aware that the Mondeo was even being considered for us again, (Hooray!!) I think it's dramatically more handsome than the current second gen Fusion, and can only imagine how much better the suspension geometry is (taut anti-dive and anti-squat qualities) As the Fusion has just been freshened, I really hope the two will merge upon the next cycle of the Fusion. Yes I know Ford has been burned more than once bringing the better European stuff to our shores, (Merkur and Contour/Mystique) and part of the blame is that the European stuff is more upscale $$$, but what kind of money are we talking about to create a whole other version of a car (That then winds up being considered inferior after people travel to Europe / Australia and drive the real thing, and come back and tell their friends) I've never understood why we couldn't have the European Escort, and now Focus. I think part of the equation is that over there, people appreciate the nuances of a well engineered car, generally enjoy driving more, and are accepting of the fact that things wear out and will need replacement, while in this country we have an “appliance“ mentality and just look forward to paying the “thing” off and getting the next one lamenting that we should ever have to maintain it as well. Dumbing down the US offerings seems like a needless waste. Ford makes some truly stellar cars world wide, I’m ready for them to come here.

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