From Ford: Richard Parry-Jones is group vice president - Global Product Development, and Chief Technical Officer of Ford Motor Company. In this role, he oversees product development activities for all Ford Motor Company vehicles worldwide, as well as the Design, Research and Vehicle Technology functions. As Chief Technical Officer, he is responsible to the company's Board of Directors on all technical matters. Parry-Jones heads Ford's technical staff of some 30,000 engineers, scientists, designers and business professionals in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region, including the Ford, Lincoln, Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover, and Aston Martin brands. He also is responsible for product safety and environmental initiatives.
How come Ford can't bring the new Focus here--when it is based on the same platform as the Volvo S40 and Mazda 3, which are sold here--and we are left with the old one, soldiering on until late this decade?
"The simple answer is customers in the U.S. won't pay the same money. It's actually driven by a combination of the CAF laws and the low price of fuel in North America. These two things set up a disconnect between what customers want and what companies are required to provide. And we don't have that problem in Europe where fuel is expensive and where there are lots of incentives for customers to buy small, fuel-efficient cars. In Europe, people are actually moving from C/D-class cars to C-class cars because they offer similar amounts of safety, refinement, passenger space, and so on, but cost a lot less to run. If you look at consumer behavior in this sector [in the U.S.], most people are buying on price. We simply don't get rewarded for showing engineering excellence, whereas in Europe, we have to invest more simply to keep up. And Mazda doesn't need to sell a disproportionate amount of 3s because their rest of their fleet is differently mixed to Ford's fleet."
But... You say this, and the Japanese seem to be able to introduce new models every four years, rather than soldiering on with old products.
"The cadence of renewal is slower here than in Europe for this segment. Another way of looking at this is that the C-segment in the US equates to the B-segment in Europe, where the cadence of renewal is longer because the margins are much smaller--so no-one can afford to renew them with the same frequency."
Mazda does seem to have a premium on price over Ford, though.
"All the Japanese brands have a premium based on their reputation for reliability. Even today that's the case in the JD Power survey, although the margins are smaller than they used to be and they are narrowing."
Talking of Japanese brands, does the Mazda 6 platform shares any similarities with the European Ford Mondeo?
"There are no significant shared modules or components between the two. The only area of commonality is the four-cylinder global Duratec. Pretty much everything else is unique."
So why did Ford go with the Japanese platform rather than the Ford architecture for the Fusion and its derivatives?
"The Mazda 6 was designed from the get-go to be a Federal product with Federal emissions, powertrains, crash regulations, etc, in mind, and so frankly it was a lower path of resistance to get the American products out of this platform. Also, if you look at the cadence of the product cycle, the 6 was the most up-to-date, freshest platform. It makes sense not to come in halfway through the product cycle."
When you look at the C1 platform, which underpins the Mazda 3, Volvo S40, and new Focus, do you see the 6 as the basis of both Ford of North America and Ford of Europe products?
"Not in this cycle. I am sure we will work out a way of that happening but at the moment the cycles are out of cadence. And it is just too expensive to write off half a product cycle's worth of development. So at the moment, we have collaboration going on between Ford in North America and Mazda in the C/D-segment, and between Volvo and Land Rover and Ford in Europe in the C/D segment, largely driven by timing. There are another couple of factors, though, besides timing. The more partners you have in a program, the more time consuming the process is. We believe this is a skill you have to master over time, rather than jump into and try to figure out after the fact. There are a number of things that slow collaboration down; the number of different time zones; the number of different languages, which increases the risk of miscommunication; the number of processes and methods and tools you have, which makes it more difficult to synchronize events; and the number of different IT platforms, such as parts numbering systems, release systems, CAD systems. The more of these you have, the more time consuming and error-prone swapping information becomes. The way we overcome that is that we have backroom services, such as people sitting down translating. It is hard to scale that to the entire enterprise, so we are working on converging on those systems-then three or more partners becomes more doable. One has to be a bit of a pragmatist here: it is easy to be seduced by the elegance of perfection, but let not perfection be the enemy of the good."