Q&A: Richard Parry-Jones, Ford Global Product Development VP

It is interesting that people ask those questions of Ford, and not of Acura and Toyota, who share powertrains and parts between Acura and Honda and Lexus and Toyota.

"Sure. I think they ask us those questions because our brands are very distinctive, with different values and expectations. I don't think that is the case with a Lexus, which is a more refined and luxurious version of a Toyota."

0503 Qa 500

Changing to U.S. products, why did the 500 come to market with a 3.0-liter engine that everyone thinks is underpowered when you have a more powerful 3.5 in the near future?

"There is a reason for everything. We don't have a bigger engine because it is not available, so why delay the launch of a vehicle with a perfectly good engine/powertrain combination?"

Well, Honda and Toyota and Nissan don't do that.

"But you don't see what the Japanese do around the rest of the world. Quite often, they do things in Japan first and you see the results later in the U.S. But with Ford in the U.S., you see everything raw because we have no hidden domestic market. It would be nice to have had the bigger engine at the launch, sure, but we didn't."

It has been said Ford has never seen a cost it didn't want to cut, and we have seen evidence of low-rent parts in Jags, for instance. While we hate to come back to the Japanese, you don't see that in a Lexus, even if the switches, or whatever, are shared with Toyota parts.

0503 Qa Xk8

"I don't care what company you are talking about, if you want to compete in the North American market, you are in the cost cutting business. Everyone is at it. The thing is, in the past, we were noted for it: now everyone is at it. Actually, we are our proud of our cost cutting. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Do our competitors make mistakes? Yes. Are we learning from our mistakes? Yeess. Value chain management is probably one of the most useful tools we have brought on board in the past few years, a tool that has been used very well in Japan: we are adopting it with enthusiasm. It does relieve the engineers from the temptation to make visible cost cutting but allows you to see where cost is being added that doesn't help the consumer. I basically agree with you. I am always telling our engineers that you have to attack things that a customer can't see and can't feel. So the mechanism behind a switch dolly can be the same on a Jaguar and a Ford, but I don't think that the switch itself should look or feel the same. I think you just have to be clever about this sharing."

What is your take about hybrids, bearing in mind that they are a great deal for consumers and very expensive for automakers? And how much pressure can Ford exert politically to make the case for diesels, which are in many ways a more efficient way of achieving the same goal?

0503 Qa Hybrid

"We are pro diesel in our advocacy of the setting of standards, but our approach is not to seek relaxation from the standards. And once we have the regulations, our job is clear: we have to invent the technology to make clean diesels available in the U.S. market. I am not very popular, actually, because I keep saying that we need to look at everything. We have to look at advanced gasoline engines, we have to work on clean diesels for North America, particularly for SUVs and pickups, and we have to work on hybrids. Until the reputation for diesels in North America starts to change, then hybrids will be the preferred alternative powertrain for light trucks and cars. I think the logical entry point for diesels in North America is in pickups because there is a high level of acceptance in heavy-duty trucks. I think other people will lead the change of perception here: Jaguar just isn't big enough, whereas BMW and Mercedes together are."

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