February 21, 2003

Ford changes product development structure

Dearborn, Michigan – Ford announced that it will change the way it designs and develops new vehicles. Its North American product development organization will now include four platform groups that will be responsible for sets of like vehicles. Previously, product development was organized around five brand-oriented groups.

Ford said the changes will result in increased new-product introductions – more than 65 new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products in the next five years – as well as significant cost savings, quality improvements and quicker overall product development time.

The changes involve more flexible vehicle platforms as well as increased commonality and standardization of components and processes. Ford says this will help it achieve a 10 percent annual product development productivity improvement and a 25 percent reduction in the number of platforms in North America by 2010.

“We’ve worked for the past few years on reinventing our product development system,” said Jim Padilla, executive vice president, Ford Motor Company, and president, North America. “Today’s realignment is another major step in the right direction,” Padilla adds.

Ford’s North America product development will be organized into four platform groups:

  • Small FWD/RWD: Ford Focus, Ford Mustang, Ford Freestar, Mercury Monterey, new Mercury SUV and next-generation Lincoln cars
  • Medium/Large FWD/AWD: Ford Taurus, Ford Five Hundred, Ford Freestyle, Mercury Montego and all-new Ford, Mercury and Lincoln cars
  • SUVs and Body-on-Frame: Ford Escape, Ford Escape Hybrid, Ford Explorer, Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Ford Expedition, Ford Excursion, Ford Crown Victoria, new Mercury small SUV, Mercury Mountaineer, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Aviator, Lincoln Navigator, Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln LS and all-new Ford SUVs
  • Pickup Trucks and Commercial Vehicles: Ford Ranger, Ford F-Series, Ford E-Series

By moving to more flexible, common platforms, Ford will be able to introduce new, derivative products at lower cost in the future – including several all-new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products not yet announced. In addition, these actions are expected to reduce product development times by approximately 25 percent.

Improved quality also will be achieved throughout the process. Ford is establishing an enhanced Product Development Quality organization to complement the improved engineering approach. A single quality director will ensure a consistent approach to quality throughout the entire product development process.

The moves will not affect employment levels among the North American product development organization. However, some workers will have different reporting structures as a result of the realignment.

The changes within product development and the emphasis on common flexible platforms build on a major investment in Ford’s manufacturing facilities. Ford is installing a new flexible manufacturing system throughout its North American assembly operations. The new flexible manufacturing system will allow the company to respond more quickly to changing customer demand with faster changeover at a significant cost-savings. For example, the all-new, next-generation flexible manufacturing system in assembly operations is expected to save $1.5 billion to $2 billion during the next decade because of standardized processes and components.

Ford’s new Dearborn Truck Plant at the Rouge Center in Dearborn, Michigan, will be the most flexible plant – with the capability of producing nine models off three platforms. The other North American assembly plants will be able to produce eight models off two platforms.

Approximately half of the company’s body shops, final assembly and chassis areas will be flexible by mid-decade, with 75 percent of the plants flexible by about 2010.

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