I was at a press launch last week, the C-Max facelift and the brand new S-Max were introduced to the bottom-feeder class of the European motoring press - yes, that’s what i consider myself. Even though we were invited to Mallorca, it was a fairly run-of-the-mill event, mainly because they made sure we don’t have time to go to Sa Calobra. Not that any of my peers knew what i was on about, when i mentioned this.
So, not much of a driving event. However, the discussion with the S-Max program leader, who was designated to talk to us, proved to be very interesting. For a German engineer at a huge OEM, he turned out to be quite the Jalop, insisting on having ‘80s cars as a hobby, and he had interesting opinions on the issues with One Ford. As we on these pages were discussing some of these before, at length even, i was all ears. Here’s what I learned.
Is Ford of Europe German, or American?
Neither. Thinking global isn’t just hot air in this case, now it is a truly world-wide undertaking, with input into models from all over the globe. The US, Europe, Russia and China all have a say in how cars like the Focus or the Mondeo/Fusion turn out.
And what does this “imput from all over the Globe” mean?
Basically it means being always on. When they are trying to solve a problem, but the working hours in Cologne are over, they can, and do ask their colleagues in the US, who are just coming on-line to carry on where they left off. And the US can pass on to China, if they run out of hours. Clever IT solutions and integrated thought processes make this possible, easy even, so in effect, One Ford is hammering away on the problem, not until they can, but until it is solved.
With so much shared, why are there engines that are still only available on one of the US and EU markets, even though they are built into the same car?
This comes down to several factors. American engineers, when confronted with European diesels, are always on about how the car has vibrations, that an American customer would not be happy about. For us Europeans, some NVH intrusion is considered normal, but for the US buyer, bred on smooth I6 and V8 engines with automatics, these are off-putting. On the other hand, including the American V6 Ecoboost into the European lineup, even as a performance engine, would come with a huge logistical nightmare for the Valencia plant. So on both accounts these market-special engines only make it across the Pond, if there is a very strong business case for them.
And how was the car? The C-Max didn’t change much, the S-Max though is brand new. Built on the same platform as the Mondeo/Fusion, it can now incorporate AWD, as well as loads of clever gizmos. It feels huge inside, and heavy when driving with gusto, just as one would assume. However, it also handles itself very well, corners flat, accelerates and stops quickly, so it is a dynamic product, even if you don’t get any sensation of speed because of the enormity of it. Feels much more of a quality product than before too, and that’s important, as loads of customers come from Audi and the like...