You might say that Richard Parry-Jones was the CEO of driving dynamics. Parry-Jones, 56, Ford's chief technical officer, retired last week after working there for more than 30 years.
More than any other figure, Parry-Jones lifted Ford's game by focusing on the attributes that made the automaker's cars more fun to drive. That was particularly true of the portfolio of Ford of Europe, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, where he concentrated his energies over the past few years.
Parry-Jones was renowned for his seat-of-the-pants driving style. He logged countless miles on the rural roads around his home in England, focusing on the tiny details of ride, handling, steering, noise, vibration and feel. The results of those drives often found their way into Ford's vehicles.
"To me, his contribution was immeasurable," said Bruce Blythe, an adviser to Ford and former chief strategy officer. "He helped ensure we had wonderful vehicle driving dynamics. Because of Richard, Ford vehicles today are the equal of any cars on the road."
Parry-Jones took a particular fancy to the vehicles in Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which encompasses Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. When CEO Jacques Nasser named Wolfgang Reitzle PAG chairman in 1999, analysts predicted there wouldn't be room for two product geniuses in the same company. But they bonded because they shared the same goals.
Like Reitzle, Parry-Jones was criticized for spending too much time and money on details that only someone of his knowledge would notice.
There's no word on what Parry-Jones might do next, but he has a keen interest in the economic development of his beloved homeland of Wales.