1997: Richard Parry-Jones
Head of Ford Small and Medium Car Vehicle Center
Man responsible for putting European dynamics in U.S.-market cars like the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique, and crafting the Ford Ka
In our words: “Richard Parry-Jones was grinning from ear to ear after exploiting the tiny Ford Ka’s crisp handling and torquey engine on the challenging roads of rural Wales. Our infectiously enthusiastic Man of the Year could have traveled here in the back seat of a limousine…but RPJ won our Man of the Year award for spearheading the team that has made and is making Ford’s small and medium-size cars so good to drive.”
In his own words: “There are areas where we see opportunities to surprise and delight customers in the United States with, for instance, cars that provide European steering and handling standards. I don’t think there are many Americans who would say, “Not for me, thank you” or “I don’t like it,” after experiencing those qualities. Our experience with Contour/Mystique has been that customers haven’t actually articulated a need for that sort of thing, but when it’s presented to them as part of a package that meets other needs, it’s something they rate very highly.”
What happened next: Parry-Jones eventually became Head of Global R&D and then Chief Technical Officer at Ford. Parry-Jones was one of the men tasked with solving the problems with Ford Explorers and Firestone tires, a serious problem that threatened to sink the company in the early 2000s. That controversy did sink one other person, however: then-CEO Jacques Nasser.