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Ford Shaking Up Design Ops Again

Joel Piaskowski new European chief as Martin Smith sets retirement.

by on May.30, 2014

Joel Piaskowski is the new head of design for Ford Europe, taking over for Martin Smith, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The official word at Ford is that the company is making a smooth shift in management, COO Mark Fields set to replace the retiring Alan Mulally on July 1. But whether or not you call it a shake-up, things are getting pretty busy on the design side of the automaker’s org chart.

Only months after long-time design director J Mays handed his pen and sketchpad over to new global boss Moray Callum, Ford is now seeing a big transition in its European styling studios.

The Last Word!

Joel Piaskowski, who has only been with Ford since 2010, will be the maker’s new head of design on the continent, succeeding Martin Smith who also plans to retire late this year. Smith will spend his final months, we’re told, working on a special project with Callum “studying the future direction of Ford design.” That’s not out of line considering the impact Smith has had on Ford’s current styling strategy. (more…)

Mustang v The World

How the new pony car wants to develop a global following.

by on Dec.09, 2013

The new 2015 Ford Mustang will now target a global market with both left- and right-hand-drive models.

Automakers are always looking for maximum splash with the launch of a new vehicle, but Ford pulled out all stops during the 6-city debut of the new 2015 Mustang last week.  But perhaps the most significant bit of news was buried in the press package for the 50th Anniversary  model, which contained a section titled “Mustang Going Global,” which built on a teaser news release from October that noted there are now “nearly 100 (Mustang) clubs outside the United States.”

To be clear, Mustangs have, in fact, been sold “around the world” since the pony car’s launch in April 1964—but not with the big push Dearborn is planning now.  According to the October release, a mere 161,000 Mustangs have been sold outside North America in its 49 years of existence, an average of barely than 3,200 a year—in other words, a pittance compared to the American market, where total sales over nearly half a century have amounted to around 9 million.

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But demand has been rising.  Significantly, in 2012, more than 4,000 Mustangs were sold in 35 countries overseas, a substantial increase over the 49-year average.  To put this in perspective, note that Mustang U.S. sales for ten months this year have averaged 6,600 a month.


Images of 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible Leak Out

Official debut of ragtop planned closer to pony car’s 50th anniversary.

by on Dec.05, 2013

A teaser image of the new Ford Mustang Convertible is leaked from Dearborn.

There was something notably absent from the wild, six-city media extravaganza Ford staged on Thursday for the preview of the 50th anniversary Mustang: a ragtop.

Long-time fans will recall that the convertible was launched right from the start when former Ford Pres. Lee Iacocca unveiled the original pony car at the New York Auto Show on April 13, 1964. And there’s been a ragtop version of every generation since then.  So, shouldn’t Mustang fans expect another one once the 2015 screeches into showrooms?

Absolutely, and Ford gave a first hint of what’s to come when it included this terse mention in its press release for the 2015 Mustang, noting, “Mustang convertible drivers will appreciate the standard multilayer insulated cloth top that gives the car a more upscale appearance and a quieter cabin. The new top lowers twice as fast as before, and has a sleeker profile when folded for open-air motoring.”

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We’re expecting to see the convertible in the sheet metal sometime early next year, perhaps during the New York Auto Show which comes a lot closer to the official Mustang 50th anniversary celebration.  But if that seems far too long in the future, don’t fret. Ford’s Scott Monty issued an unexpected tweet today, the Mustang Convertible briefly sitting in where the coupe model was later revealed to the world.


Ford Design Chief J Mays Says Farewell With New Mustang

In search of the design "that is part and parcel of the Mustang's heritage."

by on Dec.05, 2013

Ford's soon-to-retire global design chief J Mays with the 2015 Mustang.

It was a plum assignment – and a risky one. Right from the start, Ford Motor Co. designers knew they had to preserve Mustang’s signature cues even as they set out to develop an all-new sixth-generation pony car that would mark the Mustang’s 50th anniversary.

And beyond the basic visual expectations of Mustang fans around the world, they knew they’d have to deal with a range of legislative challenges: new fuel economy and emissions standards, stricter safety mandates – even the pedestrian safety requirement set down by the European Union.

The Last Word!

It’s no wonder, said Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, that “not good enough” was a phrase heard frequently around the maker’s headquarters design studio in Dearborn, Michigan.

The man cracking the whip was J Mays, Ford’s global chief designer and chief creative officer, who reveals that Ford built 50 different models as his team finalized the design of the 2015 Mustang unveiled this week.


J Mays Stepping Down as Ford Global Design Chief

Moray Callum to take on global design duties.

by on Nov.06, 2013

Ford's global design chief J Mays, shown here at the launch of the Ford Flex, is resigning from the post effective Jan. 1.

J Mays, the talented but at times controversial group vice president and global design director at Ford Motor Co., will be retiring after 16 years with the Detroit automaker – and 33 years in the auto industry.

Mays, who was instrumental in breathing new life into Ford Design during the company’s often painful turnaround over the past decade, will be replaced by Moray Callum, who has been elected a Ford Motor Co. officer and named vice president, Design effective upon Mays’ official retirement on Jan. 1, 2014.

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Mays is stepping down even though two of his key projects recently, the redesign of the Ford Mustang and the F-150 pickup truck, have yet to be shown publicly. However, a concept version of the pickup truck was unveiled during the North American International Auto Show last January to favorable reviews. The maker continues to hold the new Mustang – which will debut on the nameplate’s 50th anniversary – under tight wraps. (more…)

Ford S-Max Concept to Debut in Frankfurt

Updated big brother of C-Max people-mover will get array of new technologies.

by on Aug.28, 2013

Ford will officially reveal this new S-Max Concept during the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show.

Ford will roll out a concept version of its S-Max crossover during the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show, and it will feature a variety of new technologies that can even track a driver’s health.

The 7-seat S-Max is the larger, more upscale version of the Ford C-Max “people mover” recently introduced in the U.S. market. The Concept hints at an update being seen by the automaker as a way to draw in the young European families Ford desperately needs to attract in order to reverse years of substantial losses in the struggling Continental car market.

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As has become typical with Ford’s recent concepts, what you see is pretty much what you will get, global design director J Mays said during a Detroit media backgrounder.  The design, he said, is a “very good indication of what the next  S-Max will look like.”


Striking Evos Concept Will Reshape Face of Next Ford Fusion

by on Sep.13, 2011

Though not slated for production, the design cues of the Ford Evos Concept will reappear - starting with the 2013 Ford Fusion and Mondeo.

Officially, the new Ford Evos is nothing more than a concept vehicle.  The sporty gullwinged 4-door debuting today at the Frankfurt Motor Show today won’t be going into production.  But if it strikes your fancy, hang tight.  Many of the most appealing design cues will soon reappear at a nearby Ford showroom, senior company officials tell, starting with a new model launching at the North American International Auto Show next January.

While Ford’s global design chief J Mays and other officials were cagey when pressed on the future of the new Evos “design language” – Mays hinting we might see more in four months or so – unimpeachable sources confirmed that this would, indeed, translate into a major launch at the Detroit Auto Show.  And the first new model to bring the Evos’ design cues to life will be the next-generation Ford Fusion – which be sold in most other markets as the Ford Mondeo.

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“We’re at the crossroads,” announced design director Mays during a sneak preview of the Evos, which is meant to be a significant evolution of Ford’s kinetic sculpture design language – which is itself most visible on new models like the Focus and Fiesta.  The goal is to come up with a look that is “more than just fun-to-drive,” said Mays, but which also provides a sense of the high technology  Ford is engineering into its products.


Revised Ford C-Max Debuts at Frankfurt

Styling reversal of previous J Mays offerings is now complete.

by on Sep.04, 2009


No real surprise here – good or bad – since C-Max takes its design cues from the iosis MAX.

The original Ford European Turnaround Plan earlier in the decade involved building on the success of the Focus as the over due replacement for an aging Escort. Focus was and is a global success.

Encouraged that Ford could finally stop its billion dollar losses and declining market share in Europe, the company set out to address other growing segments it had also missed. It needed to update its aging powertrain offerings as well.

Four gaping holes in the line were causing the sales slide.

Ford had completely ignored the Renault Megane Scenic in 1996 and the trend it set for C-class minivans (multi-activity vehicles in marketing jargon) that pointed the way for a whole generation of competitive products. Slow reacting, Ford took almost an entire product cycle to come up with the C-Max response.

It also ignored the European switch to high pressure common-rail diesel engines going on at the same time, since it did not want to spend the money for tooling, and it’s alleged, American management after Ford 200o despised diesels. Ford Motor Company, emphasis Motor, eventually was, eventually, forced to go outside for engineering expertise.

Then it missed the small Renault Kangoo and Citroen Berlingo panel vans that were trendy with kids and successful with small merchants, This gaff was finally addressed with the Transit Connect a decade later, only now going on sale in the U.S.

In addition, it let the Fiesta B-car languish just as the European market moved down a segment in taste and purse, as other makers thrived with more derivatives than Starbucks has coffee flavors.

All these problems have since been addressed, more or less successfully, and freshened second generations of the comeback lineup are out or about to appear. Still, the decade had a devastating effect on company reputation and market share — once 35% in the United Kingdom. Across Europe,  share is just under 10%, the highest it has been in memory.

This brings us back to the C-Max. Though late and initially without a competitive diesel engine, the C-Max plugged one hole. Along with the second generation Focus and the revised Fiesta from Mazda, Ford finally stopped losing market share. Now comes a  Gen Two C-Max using the same bolder, more rounded, more expressive styling that has appeared recently, which is a complete reversal of the J Mays plain “Braun Coffee maker” design of the first generation of European turn around products.


Design Sustainability and the Race to Green

Pasadena Art Center summit features car design experts plus a green racer girl.

by on Feb.27, 2009

Chevrolet Volt: Wishing will make it so?

Chevrolet Volt: Wishing will make it so?

The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California is a storied institution that has brought forth numerous automotive styling luminaries, including Wayne Cherry, J Mays, Henrik Fisker and Chris Bangle. For the past several years, the Art Center has hosted a Sustainability Summit that explores the role of design in addressing key environment challenges.

Among the Center’s graduates is Bryan Nesbitt, General Motor’s vice president of design for North America, who opened a panel discussion of what might lie around the many curves ahead on the road to sustainable mobility. Perhaps predictably, that panel — which included Bill Reinert, manager for advanced vehicle technology at Toyota USA, and John Waters, president of Bright Automotive and formerly of GM’s EV-1 team — didn’t agree on what’s just around the bend, let alone farther down the road.