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Auto blogTue, 05 Nov 2013 13:32:00 EST
Ford's highly influential head of design, J Mays, has announced that he'll be retiring from his position after 33 years in the industry, 16 of which were at the Dearborn, MI-based company. Upon departure, he'll be succeeded as group vice president of design by Moray Callum. If that last name sounds familiar, yes, he's the brother of Jaguar's Ian Callum.
It's difficult to explain just how big of a role Mays had on not just Ford's design over the years, but on the entire industry. Before heading to Dearborn, Mays worked for Audi, BMW and then Volkswagen, where he was involved in concept cars that paved the way for design icons like the first-generation Audi TT and the Volkswagen New Beetle. As for his Ford resume, it's extensive.
Mays joined the company in 1997 as design director for Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda, as well as the Premier Automotive Group (Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin). He was heavily involved in the Ford Fusion, Focus, Fiesta, Taurus, F-150 and Mustang, while also contributing to concept cars like the Atlas, Evos, 427, Forty-Nine, Shelby GR-1, Lincoln MKZ and the MKC.
Automakers face competing interests when it comes to developing a new generation of vehicle. On the one hand, companies want to build their cars to be safer and better handling, with more equipment and maybe even larger dimensions over the model it's replacing. On the other hand, they strive to keep weight down to the benefit of both performance and fuel consumption. Usually something has to give, and in the case of the new 2015 Ford Mustang, those efforts may have resulted in a weight penalty of two or three hundred pounds.
This according to Blue Oval modifier Steeda Autosports, which states that "the 2015 Mustang ended up gaining 200-300 pounds in this remake". Despite the Mustang not being on the market yet, it would appear the leading Ford aftermarketer has been given early access to the 2015 model to help jumpstart its tuning efforts (a rather common development among trusted tuners). If Steeda's assertion is accurate, that would make the challenge of getting the new pony car up to speed for both Ford and aftermarket customizers like Steeda that much greater.
We're waiting for official word from Ford on the veracity of Steeda's claim, but if true, it's bound to be a bit of disappointing news for legions of Blue Oval performance enthusiasts. Watch this space for more.
Here's the thing about China: The folks buying cars there have a very different set of standards than shoppers in many other markets around the globe. While we all drool over hot metal with bold designs, and while we appreciate automakers going an extra step to inject even their cheapest offerings with aggressive and interesting cues, that sort of sheetmetal sex appeal doesn't always sell in the People's Republic. Case in point is Jaguar, which may be designing a more traditional-looking version of its XJ for the Chinese market, or more to the point of this story, Ford currently sells the less-exciting, last-generation Focus compact in China right alongside the new one.
So consider this new Shanghai-bound C-segment concept a preview of what's to come for that more traditional, budget-minded, less-sexy market. More proof of this pudding: Ford's even calling this concept the Escort - a nod to the Blue Oval's compact car days of yore, and a name that stirs up thoughts of basic, affordable transportation rather than great driving dynamics or bold design. "Customers in China described seeking a vehicle that is stylish - but not one that is arrogant or pretentious," Ford states. And this new Escort concept previews a possibility of providing exactly that for this rapidly expanding automotive market.
What you're looking at, then, is one of the most simple Ford designs we've seen of late, though it still incorporates all of the automaker's latest DNA. The signature hexagonal grille is front and center, flanked by attractive LED headlamps and chrome-rimmed foglamp housings. The entire car's design focuses on clean, smooth surfaces, with one strong character line flowing from front to back just below the beltline. We will say that the car looks decidedly more premium from the rear view, where narrow, horizontal taillamps with an LED accent give the car added visual width. Bland as it may be, it's a handsome little concept, though fear what would likely happen if all of the conceptual details get dumbed down for a production model.