Editor's note: This story is part of a special section on the accelerating pace of automotive development, engineering, innovation and manufacturing to be published on Monday, Aug. 2.
DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. slashed an eye-opening 20 months off the product development time of the 2022 Maverick compact pickup not because it could — but because it had to.
An aging lineup and a bureaucratic corporate hierarchy had weakened what former CEO Jim Hackett called Ford's "competitive fitness." Almost immediately after becoming CEO in May 2017, Hackett promised faster decision-making, new ways of working focused on what he coined "human-centered design" and a reduction in the number of vehicle architectures to a flexible few, which would cut engineering costs and improve speed to market.
Designers and engineers got their first chance to turn Hackett's press release promises into reality when Ford in 2018 announced a plan to drop all sedans in North America. Suddenly, there was room in its lineup for an affordable vehicle — but to fill the space and avoid losing entry-level customers, the project would need to move quickly.
But more importantly, more quickly than normal.