DEARBORN - @Ford Magazine recently interviewed Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development about progress in 2012 and priorities for 2013.
Q. What has made 2012 special for you?
A. I think this is the year where the true power of the One Ford strategy can be seen in all regions as we start to deliver more products off of each of our global platforms. Particularity here in North America where Fusion, Escape and MKZ are all hitting the marketplace. Our lineup is so strong and we’re starting to it see it roll out throughout the world. So it’s kind of that year where the whole plan is coming into execution phase. It’s a lot of work and a lot of long hours from everyone, but it’s also very satisfying as a culmination of a long process that is really starting to bear fruit.
Q. You talked about the strength of our lineup, how can we measure that?
A. Both our internal metrics and external metrics show us as number one in delivering the freshest of the product portfolio. We’re able to do that through a very efficient engineering organization. And again, that’s part of the One Ford strategy. When you’re bringing global products out of global platforms you can do it a lot more efficiently than a lot of our competitors do. That translates into freshness in the showroom, and hopefully into increased market share and profitability.
Q. We can’t talk about 2012 without touching on quality.
A. I think we’re all disappointed in the latest surveys. We know there are three main areas involved – MyFord Touch, our dual-clutch 6-speed transmissions and our interior accommodation and usage. Everyone needs to know that we have definitive actions and a lot of resources against all three of those. The nature of those survey processes is that a lot of the upgrades to MyFord Touch and the transmissions in particular didn’t get into the latest surveys. So we anticipate some improvement in that – that’s what our data shows us. Perhaps more importantly is we absolutely need to be laser focused in improving the quality, but it can’t come at the cost in stepping back in being technology leaders . That’s been a big portion of us moving to the forefront in the customers mind – whether it is connectivity or fuel economy. So, it really is an “and” solution. We’ve got to get back to where we need to be on quality while maintaining the pace of technology leadership.
Q. What is that technology leadership doing to help us in the showroom?
A. Well let’s talk about fuel economy and connectivity. Fuel economy as a reason to buy a Ford is a big transformation for the company. It’s been a big rejecter for us in the past, but now as we continually roll out vehicles that are consistently best-in-class for fuel economy in their segments we’re changing that perception. With technology leadership relative to connectivity, there is an overall perception to Ford as being in the forefront and being technologically advanced. The aspect that we need to be careful of is introducing features for features sake. We need to be introducing technology providing real value to the customer and deliver it flawlessly.
Q. Speaking of fuel economy, how are we progressing on delivering our Blueprint for Sustainability?
A. Well I think the key aspect of our blueprint was the Power of Choice. Today we are delivering EcoBoost, six-speed transmissions, electric power steering, start-stop – all coupled with our electrification strategy of regular hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. All are offered in our mainstream vehicles and our mainstream platforms. We’re giving consumers an incredible choice. I think that’s vital for the future. We shouldn’t overreact to near-term trends. This is a really long-term strategy in progressing those technologies, progressing efficient manufacturing, and being able to mix manage depending on what our customers want and value is going to be key. We’ve already seen that with some of our competitors in the near term having a bit of difficulty in dedicating some of their platforms and dedicated plants to certain powertrain choices.
Q. So when we look at next year, what do see as top priorities for product development?
A. Of course we really need to get back to the basics of delivering quality. We know how to do this. I don’t want to say we’ve strayed off that path, but we must continue to dedicate the right amount of time to quality. That’s going to be an incredible focus for the product development management team. Also, we’ve got an incredibly strong cycle plan. I think it’s the strongest cycle plan we’ve ever had and we really need to leverage the efficiencies working as a global One Ford team to deliver that cycle plan. The work load is going to be high but it is going to be a lot of fun to deliver even more exciting product.
Q. When think about all our products, can you point out any favorites?
A. It’s not fair to ask that question. It’s like asking which one is your favorite kid.
Q. Okay, but mention a couple of moments that feel good to you in North America this year.
A. That’s much easier! The Fusion is such a stand-out product, the Escape is such a stand-out product, the MKZ when people get in that car are just going to be so amazed at how good that vehicle is, particularly when you’re driving against the competition. Our vehicles are getting to a point that they’re so naturally good you don’t even realize it until you drive a competitor product. There’s a lot of product in the pipeline that’s going to be really knock out and surprise a lot of people.
Q. What else would you like to say to the team?
A. I want to thank everyone for all their hard work this year. We had an incredible year with a tremendous roll out of products. And that goes to the product development team as well as all of our partners in manufacturing, purchasing and sales and marketing. It’s been a true collective team effort to deliver great products to our customers. I’m really looking forward to next year because we’ll do even more to capture that momentum and continue delivering on the One Ford plan. But it’s been a great year and I’m really looking forward to working with such great teammates next year.