Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda and Volvo all have something in common today besides the fact that they were once owned or controlled by Ford Motor Co.
All three are starting to blossom again now that they have developed their own unique vehicle architectures, powertrains and technologies, and as Ford-based hardware ages out of production.
This is not to say that Ford was a bad corporate parent. In many ways, Ford was a good corporate steward to these automakers. There is no question that Jaguar Land Rover would not have survived -- and Mazda and Volvo probably wouldn’t have either -- were it not for Ford’s money, manufacturing expertise, technology and even some corporate operating principles transplanted from Dearborn.
And Ford was a good supplier during the transition from the time these companies were sold until they could develop their own engines and supply chains.
Ford benefited from its experience running other automakers. The things Ford learned make today’s Ford and Lincoln vehicles far better. For instance, many of the safety features in Ford and Lincoln bodies can be traced to the pioneering safety advances first seen in Volvos.
Ford gave its aluminum-production system a dry run at Jaguar starting in 2003 with the XJ sedan and then took what it learned back to Dearborn and deployed it in the lightweight 2015 F-150. Mazda taught Ford about improving quality and reducing engineering costs by building fewer prototypes.
And Ford executives got valuable experience working overseas, including CEO Mark Fields -- who once led Mazda -- and Europe’s vice president of product development, Joe Bakaj.
Since Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo have found new corporate parents -- which picked them up for bargain-basement prices -- it’s been a slow but steady turnaround for these companies.