Ford of Europe has formed a new group devoted to its various specialty vehicles.
Called SVE, for Specialty Vehicle Engineering, the group is led by Jost Capito, a former BMW and Porsche engineer. Capito reports to Martin Leach, Ford of Europe vice president of product development.
From its headquarters in Dunton, England, the SVE unit will oversee four specialty areas:
* Performance cars derived from production models, such as the Ford Focus ST170 and Mondeo ST220.
* Specialty vehicles for the German market, such as police cars.
* Alternative-fuel vehicles, such as those powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). The SVE unit will not conduct research, but will implement the technology in production models.
* Vehicles for emerging markets, such as modifying the Focus for sale in India with a tougher suspension and a heavy-duty air cleaner.
The SVE unit will parallel Ford's Special Vehicle Team in North America. The two may cooperate on future projects. Previous specialty vehicles for Europe were developed in Dunton, but under supervision from Ford in the USA.
'Ford has the proper processes for its mass-production cars, but for this [specialty vehicles] you need different processes, because people expect the quality to be even higher,' Capito said. 'These cars are built on the same production line, so we have to be more nimble.'
Capito, 43, was previously chief operating officer for Sauber's Formula One team. Before that, he worked for Porsche's engine development division, where he helped create the Carrera Cup and worked on the 1994 GT1 racing effort that won the 24-hour Le Mans competition.
Capito began his career with BMW, developing 2.3-liter and 2.5-liter engines, and working on the high-performance M3.
Capito says working at the SVE unit is similar to his early days at BMW M-Sport. Of 70 SVE team members, half will be devoted to performance vehicles.
'I want to have one group of absolute experts in driving dynamics, engines, chassis and electrics,' Capito said. 'But this is also good for young engineers. They can learn the whole car as a system, and not be forced into being a specialist in cylinder heads or suspension damping.'