Ford last week said that Thomas will become director of strategic design on June 1. He'll be based in Irvine, Calif., and will lead design teams in Dearborn, Mich., and California.
Thomas, 47, and Mays, 50, Ford's head of design, worked together in the 1990s. Thomas was chief designer of Volkswagen AG's California studio, and Mays was Audi's top designer.
Together they penned the Concept 1, which led to the hugely popular VW New Beetle. Thomas also designed the Audi TT.
For the past three years Thomas had headed the Chrysler group's Pacifica Advance Product Design Center in Carlsbad, Calif. He resigned last month.
Says Mays of Thomas' ability: "He loves to tell a story through design."