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AUTOMOBILE BY DESIGN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jan 17, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

J Mays with the 2010 Shelby GT500

AUTOMOBILE BY DESIGN

By John Grafman J 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 design visions. 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 concept LA 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 entitled J Mays Takes On The World, posted on in December 2008.

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