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Q&A Martens: Product will lead Ford's recovery

Automotive News / January 04, 2004

Impressed with Phil Martens' product-development work at Mazda Motor Corp., top executives at Ford Motor Co. chose him to repeat the job on a grander scale at Ford Motor Co.

Martens ascended to Ford Motor Co.'s top North American product development job in early 2003, about a year after returning from a stint at Mazda in Japan. At Mazda, Martens led development of the RX-8 sports car and the Mazda6 mid-sized sedan.

Ford is basing up to 10 new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles on the Mazda6 platform.

Martens, 43, spoke with Staff Reporter Amy Wilson.

This is your first Detroit show as product development chief. How important is it?

This show for Ford is huge because for the first time in a long time we're going to have more real production products on the stage than concepts. So when you look at our stand, to me, it's make or break.

What will the show say about Phil Martens personally?

(Showgoers might say), "We've heard about this guy who did all of these things at Mazda. And now that we see the Mazda products, they actually are pretty good. Can it be replicated in Detroit? Can they do it again?"

My desire would be for people to walk away (thinking that) it's really clear that Ford's recovery is product-led.

It's really clear that these guys have their act together. It's really clear that there's a lot of momentum, and they are accelerating the rate of change.

How much influence have you personally had on the Detroit vehicles?

Tons, tons.

The Five Hundred and Freestyle were well on their way when you came back from Japan.

The styling was done, but not the rest of it. The Mustang — I was here before program approval and (did) tons.

Can you really execute 10 distinctly different vehicles off the Mazda6 platform?

I don't view platforms as static elements. I view them as dynamic models that we can actually take forward to deliver to the market the kind of product we want. So when I look at the concept we're showing on the Aviator, well, that has our new V-6 (a 3.5-liter). We want that to migrate back and forth to some of the products on the Futura platform. We're basically saving a lot of engineering, and time to market is shrinking.

Where does the Bronco concept come into play?

If we did that, it would be placed below the Escape. The concept is based on the Escape platform because you've got to build it from something. It will be an existing platform.

It's not definite?

No.

You've mentioned the lack of new products for Ford in the last few years.

I don't see any other way to win in this marketplace anymore but to have a continual stream of new products. You can no longer survive with launch and abandon. We're at quicker cycle times, consistent over a long period of time. Everybody says there's the onslaught next year, and then we're going to have this quiet period. But that's not going to be the case.

What key segments do you need to get into or improve in?

We want to play in all segments. The area we're particularly interested in over time is the youth segment and what I would call the low-cost segment.

Do you consider those one and the same?

I don't know that they are. I don't know that a Korean-fighter C-car is a youth vehicle.

What do you consider affordable?

Affordable to me is having the right price on the Freestyle and the Ford Five Hundred. Affordability with a second car or entry-level car to me is around $15,000.
 
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