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Sat, Jan 17, 2009
The LACar Editorial Staff
J Mays with the 2010 Shelby GT500
By John Grafman
Mays, Group Vice President, Design, and Chief Creative Officer at Ford Motor
Company, is one designer that needs little introduction to those in this
industry. He has left his imprint on the design direction of Ford Motor
Company's eight former global brands - Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda, Volvo,
Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin. As of Jan. 1, 2005, Mays has been busy
working with individual brands to create and support more long-range strategic
A short list of the significant Ford concept vehicles J influenced includes the
Ford Fairlane, the Shelby GR-1, the 427, the Ford Forty-Nine, Jaguar F-Type,
Lincoln MKR, and Volvo Safety Car Concept.
In addition, J (along with several exceptionally talented teams) has been
instrumental in creating several key new production models including the Aston
Martin DB9, Land Rover LR3/Discovery, the Ford GT and the all-new Ford Shelby
Cobra GT500, plus the Flex, Ford F-150, Lincoln MKS, and the Ford Fiesta.
Mays joined Ford Motor Company in 1997 as Vice President of Design and was named
Group Vice President in 2003.
J Mays has a tough job right now as Ford Motor Company, and perhaps the
industry, tries to find its way. It's sink or swim time. Fortunately, J is not
unaccustomed to challenges. Here are his thoughts on design, Ford, and how to
stay afloat in choppy waters.
LA Car: I've noticed quite a few people in the media have really been piling on
the domestics with regards to not having the right products. And some of that
might be just a little bit unfair. Can you give your point of view as far as
developing new products that are suitable to the market?
J Mays: I would actually counter that by saying that a good portion of that is
very fair, because we don't see ourselves as just a domestic automaker. We see
ourselves as a global automaker and made the decision very firmly two years ago
to go to a global design DNA, so that cars that we would sell and make around
the world would come from a design team that was located around the world. So,
that while we certainly have all of our design team in Detroit, my mission over
the last two years has been to make our global design team more global. And by
that I mean working more closely between our American design organization and
our European design organization, which for the most part is located in Cologne.
J Mays with the Airstream conceptLA Car: What would we see coming out of that new direction?
JM: Some of important points that we said we wanted to be able to leverage was
any car that we sell regardless of where is sold domestically or
internationally, we wanted it to be considered a drop dead gorgeous car. And not
just from an American standpoint. So if we are selling a car that's only sold
here in the U.S. I'd like to say we could plop that car down in Germany, down in
Australia, down in Shanghai, no matter where it was dropped down into the world
people would say that's an absolutely gorgeous car. And that's very hard to do
because what passes for good design here in the United States would simply not
sell in other parts of the world, and you could argue that vice-versa as well.
And I'm not suggesting that we do a design, by the way, that we are going to
sell everywhere. The theory is that regardless of where a car is designed that
it would be internationally acclaimed as a gorgeous car. We have developed and
are in the process of developing a global design DNA for Ford that builds off of
our success in kinetic design that we've had in Europe over the last three
years, but the only cars it will not be touched by that design theory are the
icons', so F150 and Mustang won't be touched by that because they are in fact
their own separate brands.
LA Car: As far as right now there's obviously a big need to develop new product,
how do you go about doing that while at the same time the company is trying to
tighten its belt (financially speaking)?
JM: Well again, that goes back to a decision when Alan Mulally came in two years
ago that said why are we designing the focus to give you an example, three
different times - once for America, once for Europe, once for Asia-Pacific? So,
we made that decision two years ago that the next generation focus not the one
that's on the road here as an American focus, and not the one that's currently
on the road in Europe as a European Focus, but the successor to both of those
vehicles will come from one design and will be produced around the world with
minor tailoring and modifications for the market. So, that allows us not to
design three cars - to design one, and we can take the same design resources and
put them on other projects, so we can do a lot more with less people.
Ford is gearing up to manufacture the
Fiesta in the USA
Editor's Note: This is an excerpt of an interview from AutoDesignO entitledJ
Mays Takes On The World, posted on in December 2008.
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