Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally put in place the One Ford strategy for global product development, but Barb Samardzich plays a key role in putting that plan into practice.
Samardzich, 53, vice president of product development at Ford of Europe for the past year, sees her biggest challenge as successfully developing vehicles that can be sold in North America, Europe and Asia with minor local adaptations.
Before heading Ford of Europe's product development, Samardzich was Ford Motor's vice president of global product programs. She joined the automaker in 1990 as a product design engineer. She was named an Automotive News All-Star in 2009 and in 2010, and one of Automotive News' 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry in 2005 and in 2010.
Samardzich talked with Automotive News Europe Editor-in-Chief Luca Ciferri about how Ford's European product development team coordinates with the U.S. team.
Q: What are Ford of Europe's responsibilities under One Ford?
A: In Europe we're responsible for compact car platforms, subcompact Fiesta-sized vehicles and commercial vehicles.
And what is North America responsible for?
They are responsible globally for [mid-sized] vehicles like our Mondeo. Then they have a lot of regional products: the D-car platform for SUVs, traditional cars like Taurus and several Lincolns, as well as the F-series trucks.
How do Ford's satellite engineering centers interact with the hubs that develop Ford's platforms in Europe and North America?
Both regions use some of our satellite engineering facilities in lower-cost regions like South America and Mexico. We have a huge relationship with our Otosan partner in Turkey. We do a lot of development work there to support our Transit vehicles as well as our powertrain development.
Are Europe and North America ultimately responsible for platform architectures?
Yes, architecturally the platforms are centered either in North America or Europe. But there is regional expertise that we leverage in those satellite offices. In Brazil, for example, ethanol often is the fuel of choice. They have the expertise to develop the hardware to support this.
What does it mean to be responsible for an architecture?
You own the current architecture and the future vision for that architecture. So [the European team] is looking at how the next-generation B-car and C-car will meet all the demands from consumers, government and the environment.
But design responsibilities can get tangled. For example, the EcoSport small SUV was developed in Brazil and production will begin in India. But the vehicle is based on the Fiesta platform, which is "owned" by Ford of Europe.
The B-car is our platform, so the team in Europe would have supported them with platform changes. All the top-hat [car body] design and all the interior design was managed by our team in South America. Different regions support us with top-hat work or interior work, but we're ultimately responsible for that product globally.
What are other examples of car bodies and interiors developed in different regions?
We haven't launched some of these products yet, so I can't give too much detail about them. But we do have regional C-cars and B-cars that are being done with our team in China. So again you're leveraging local expertise.
Was North America responsible for the new Mondeo, the European version of the U.S. Fusion?
North America had the lead, but worked closely with the European team to meet European customer needs. The biggest difference between a North American Fusion and a European Mondeo is in body styles. Here in Europe a five-door and a wagon are the most popular variants. In North America, the Fusion is only a four-door. And then, of course, the Mondeo has diesel engines.
Does Europe develop diesels, or does Ford develop the big truck engines in the United States?
When Ford decided to develop a diesel engine for our large Super Duty pickup, the work was done in the United States. We actually leveraged the European team to help train some of the engineers in North America to deliver that engine.
How is gasoline engine development divided between Europe and the United States?
In Europe, we develop gasoline engines from 1.0 to 2.0 liters. Higher displacement V-6s and V-8s are made in North America. But again, the work lines have gotten so blurred now that it really is a function of what work the team is doing in one region.