Richard Parry-Jones, Ford Motor Co.'s chief product developer, has just begun reviewing Volvo Car Corp.'s vehicles and technology. But already he sees a natural pairing of Volvo and Ford-brand front-drive cars.
'Volvo Cars hardware-wise have more in common with Ford than with Jaguar and Lincoln,' said Parry-Jones. 'Maybe you'll see some Fords off the Volvo S80 platform and maybe some Volvos off Ford platforms.'
Parry-Jones is casting a far-reaching eye on Volvo, looking for platform sharing, engines, new technology and engineering expertise. As group vice president of product development, his opinion carries particular weight in how the Ford-Volvo merger will evolve.
'Volvo has a good investment in four-wheel-drive passenger-car hardware and very compact in-line five-cylinder and in-line six-cylinder engines that could find their way into Ford products,' he said.
As for light trucks, he said: 'There may be some possibility of sharing minivans or hybrid sport-utilities between Ford trucks and Volvo cars.'
The acquisition was finalized March 31. Even if product-cycle plans are coordinated by year end, it is likely to be at least five years before vehicles on the road share platforms, Parry-Jones said.
But long before vehicles ride on common platforms, Ford expects benefits from the $6.45 billion purchase of Volvo, particularly in new technology.
Parry-Jones wants to complete two tasks first: coordinate product plans and eliminate duplication on research.
'There are things we need do only once, such as next-generation airbags, fuel cells, lightweight body construction and safety items. We may decide that Ford should concentrate on fuel cells, and Volvo could take some of our safety items,' he said.
Eliminating duplication in research will free up money to accelerate technology programs, he said.
VOLVO KNOWS BEST
Earlier in April, Parry-Jones spent two days with Volvo in Gothenburg, Sweden.
'They understand their brand best and where they are going,' he said. 'I was interested in how we could use Ford capabilities, platforms, engineering know-how, capital and human resources to accelerate some of the things Volvo wants to do.'
For example, Volvo wants to use Ford's proving grounds because the Volvo track in Arizona is smaller and limited in top speed, he said. Similarly, Ford would like to use Volvo's cold-weather testing facilities in northern Sweden.
Before the purchase, Ford had benchmarked Volvo as a leader in manufacturing vehicle bodies. Ford wants to draw on Volvo's expertise in controlling dimensional variation in body assembly and in manufacturing flexibility, Parry-Jones said.
Ford does not plan to immediately fold Volvo into its large-car product development vehicle center in Dearborn, Mich. Jaguar vehicles are developed within the vehicle center.
Volvo is a much bigger company than Jaguar and would make the large-car center 'unmanageably large,' Parry-Jones said. Volvo is likely to be treated as a stand-alone product development entity, akin to Ford-controlled Mazda, he said.
GOAL: QUADRUPLE SALES
Ford also has begun assessing the marketing impact of adding Volvo to its luxury lineup. Wolfgang Reitzle, the new boss of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, will meet in California this week with Lincoln Mercury President Mark Hutchins. Volvo is part of the luxury Premier group, along with Lincoln, Jaguar and Aston Martin.
Ford wants to quadruple its luxury vehicle sales from 250,000 to 1 million annually by early in the next decade.
'We need to look at how we differentiate the brands,' Hutchins said. 'We have to integrate Volvo into our cycle plans, into our business structure, into our distribution, into our culture and into everything we do.'
The acquisition of Volvo and the hiring of Reitzle already have altered Lincoln strategy. Plans to sell the new 2000 Lincoln LS sport sedan in Europe are on hold for at least 12 to 18 months. Ford will now decide if it needs to launch the Lincoln brand in Europe or if increasing Volvo volume is the key to European market growth.