DETROIT -- Designer Freeman Thomas is teaming up with old colleague J Mays in a new position at Ford Motor Co.
Thomas, who worked with Fords design chief at Volkswagen in the 1990s, will become Fords director of strategic design in North America effective June 1. He will work out of the companys Irvine, Calif., studio and report to Peter Horbury, executive director of North America design. In his new job, Thomas will help develop concept and production vehicles.
Thomas, 47, resigned April 21 from a senior design job at the Chrysler group, where he worked on the Dodge Tomahawk concept motorcycle and a sedan strategy that evolved into the Chrysler 300C.
At Volkswagen, Thomas worked alongside Mays to develop the New Beetle and Audi TT concepts.
Thomas said the strength of Fords design team lured him to his new post.
The team (J Mays) has built is second to none, Thomas said in a statement. I couldnt pass by the opportunity to work with such a high-caliber collection of design standouts, many of whom I also consider friends.
The appointment bolsters Fords North American design talent at a time when the companys design leader is working from an overseas base. Mays, Fords group vice president of design, moved to London late last year.
Some recent efforts of Fords North American design team also have been panned for blandness. While the redesigned Ford Mustang is basking in praise, the 2005 Ford Five Hundred sedan in particular has been labeled as boring by auto critics.
Thomas will enhance the North American design team, said Horbury, who also is relatively new to Ford in the United States. He moved over to his current post at the end of 2003 from jobs at Volvo and Fords Premier Automotive Group.
Freeman has not only the artistic ability to deliver strong designs, but he also has the unique blend of intuition and business savvy to drive his team and the rest of the enterprise to deliver the right products for the right market at the proper time, Horbury said in a statement.
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