Nick Scheele, COO of Ford Motor Co., wants to increase the popularity of the company's SVT high-performance brand. Staff Reporter Mark Rechtin and other journalists spoke with him on June 22 in Los Angeles.
Is Ford selling Volvo?
The thought that we would sell Volvo is nonsense. We are 100 percent behind Volvo. We are so far behind it that we expanded the Ghent (Belgium) facility to take over the next S40 and V40, which were co-developed with Ford and Mazda. We are intimately intertwined, and Volvo is key to Ford moving forward.
Why did Ford share the Jaguar X-Type with Mondeo?
We did it for speed. In 1997, Jaguar was selling 40,000 units a year, and with the S-Type in the hopper, we felt we could get another 40,000. To get the cadence of launches, we had a window to get into before the next XJ, XK and the next S-Type. We couldn't drift the XJ and XK any further out. We looked at a Ford and Mazda solution. We also looked at downsizing the S-Type, but it would have had too much intrinsic weight. The Mondeo was not only the quickest but also the best solution.
What is the vision for Lincoln?
There are three types of Lincoln buyers. Some people say a Town Car is a Lincoln. Then there are the Navigator and Aviator, which are wholly different segments and customers. Then there is the LS, which is a younger breed. We can stretch and expand the LS platform, which is superb, to clear a hole for a Continental replacement. We want to keep the Town Car, Navigator and Aviator, but at the same time we want to expand the LS into a multirange platform. Will Lincoln ever make an X-Type-sized vehicle? No. Lincolns are large vehicles for American expectations.
What about Mercury?
We've got our cycle plans to deliver some sorely needed product.
The Detroit rumor mill is abuzz that David Thursfield (former Ford of Europe CEO, now Ford Motor vice president of purchasing and international operations) has been brought to Dearborn to take your job. Any comment on that?
There are three problems with that. There is an inference that David and I don't get on, that David is a bad cop, and that Ford needs bad cops. But David and I worked at Ford of Europe (Scheele was Thursfield's boss), and we never disagreed. Do you need a bad cop? Not if you focus on the end goal and are not distracted by interesting sidestreams. I don't believe you need tension. Previous turnarounds have shown the need for people to know leadership is united. Am I going away? No. I wanted to retire at 60 in January 2004, but I've pushed that off by two, three, "X" years. Our industry and the press are prone to go find individual heroes like Tarzan swinging through the trees. That person at Ford happens to be Bill Ford.
What about SVT (Special Vehicle Team)?
We've underplayed SVT. At the end of the day, we (the industry) are selling mostly to people who don't actually like cars. At Jaguar, the ethos said we should ignore the car clubs because they are full of (nerdy) guys who wear anoraks. But that's wrong. The ethos and love for cars comes from the guys who wear anoraks. It's what creates the brand. I want to get the SVT Focus to all dealers, to make it a cross-country brand of mainstream vehicles, not a sidebar. I want the U.S. to get access to the Ford of Europe cars, like the Focus RS and Focus Cosworth.
How well can Ford car do without relying on fleet sales, especially with Taurus?
We can do it, but we've put ourselves in a vicious circle. We have two plants with 600,000 capacity for one nameplate and two powertrains. We have to limit our capacity; otherwise we chase the marginal (fleet) dollar, and we are motivated to use the capacity. The Japanese have flexible manufacturing, while we are locked in place. I want to see flexible body shops.