Some critics at the Paris show thought the new Ford Focus looked too plain, but J Mays likes to think of the lines as simple and timeless.
Mays, who is global design chief for Ford Motor Co., believes the Focus, along with other vehicles in the Ford stable such as the new Land Rover Discovery 3, represent simple, classic design that will stand the test of time.
Lewis Booth, Ford of Europe chairman, thinks the Focus design is right for what the car has to do -- follow one of the most successful cars in Ford of Europe history, the original Focus, which represented 35 percent of the brand's sales.
Booth said it is an overstatement to call the new Focus conservative. "The car looks sleeker but has better roominess. It is a significant step forward," said Booth. "Some competitors made almost no change from one generation to another. We did a lot of research (on the new Focus) and we have a very good response from potential buyers."
Some critics disagree, saying the new Focus looks like a pale shadow of its bold, striking predecessor.
Autocar magazine in the UK praised the car's driving qualities but called the new Focus design "not wholly successful, especially in three door form." It said: "Overall look lacks sparkle and originality."
The styling of the coupe-cabriolet version of the Ford Focus introduced in Paris, called the Vignale concept, drew praise -- unlike its more conservative looking sibling.
Mays said the Focus ends an era of Ford design in Europe that began with the original Focus in 1998. Back then, the design was referred to as "New Edge."
Mays said next-generation designs for Ford's European lineup will begin with the Mondeo.
Said Mays: "For the next generation, we'll bring a little more spice and flavor. We'll start with the flagship and let that DNA trickle down through the entire brand."
Chris Bird, Ford of Europe design director, defended the Focus' simple two-line shape.
Said Bird: "A lot of the competition is beginning to get into a more convoluted, tortured sheet metal look."