From the outset, the all-new Ford Fiesta has been designed and developed to meet the differing needs of customers around the world, from Western and Eastern Europe to North America, China, Australia and South Africa.
At first glance, such a global population may not have much in common, so Ford carried out extensive research on customer needs, wants and desires around the world when planning its new small car - long before the creation of the Verve Concept preview vehicle and the subsequent production version of all-new Fiesta.
The result is not just a new car, but a new process, which dictates the future of Ford product development and through which other Ford cars will be born. All-new Fiesta is the first product of Ford Motor Company CEO, Alan Mulally's 'One Ford' vision of a single, global company designing and building cars for a single, global customer base, not divided by regional or national borders.
Following its worldwide debut at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, all-new Fiesta will be on sale across Europe in autumn 2008, in three- and five-door hatchback body styles. By 2010, all-new Fiesta will also be on sale in markets across Asia, South Africa, Australia and North America, in a variety of regionally tailored models, derived from a common platform.
Developing such a vehicle needs a process owner. For Ford, that is Marin Burela, the company's Executive Director of Small Cars, who accepted the responsibility for developing all-new Fiesta for the world.
"It's an incredibly exciting project," says Burela. "New Fiesta is a landmark moment for Ford. It's our most significant global vehicle project since the Model T and heralds the future for Ford product development."
Shared Wants - Local Needs
Several years before the world saw the exciting Verve Concept, Ford had been engaged in extensive research in Asia Pacific, China, Europe and North America to understand customer needs and desires around the world and assess the suitability for a global car project.
When Ford was considering the attitudes of a worldwide customer base, it looked outside the automotive industry, to the experiences of premium electronics and jewellery brands, to understand how and where the same product appeals across borders. The immediate conclusion was that Ford's European cars were a great fit for a generation that has grown up with the internet and mobile phones as necessities, not luxuries; a generation which believes that bigger isn't necessarily better and that technology rules.
Burela explains: "One lesson we understood very early on was that the world is getting smaller for products such as cars and that tastes are converging, driven by two key factors. Firstly, ten years ago customers in Asia Pacific markets such as China would not have had the option to buy anything other than a locally produced vehicle; that has changed and China today is fastest-growing big economy in the world, with sophisticated tastes and many more customers there able to afford the car of their choice.
"Secondly, in that same ten-year period, we've seen a huge shift in demand in major developed markets, such as the United States. The best selling vehicle there is no longer a truck - it's a car, and an imported vehicle at that. The unstable macro-economic climate driving fuel and raw materials prices has coupled with consumer concern over environmental issues to create a significant increase in demand for smaller, more efficient cars.
"Combined, these phenomena create a significant opportunity for a global small car that didn't exist ten - or even five - years ago."
Researching in these changing and demanding times, Ford found a significant commonality in the importance of design. Whether customers were in Nanjing, Detroit or Cologne, style was at the top of the wants list.
"Style is king," explains Burela. "So in designing the Verve Concept - and ultimately the new Fiesta - it was a matter of judging the subtle differences in style preferences, rather than adjusting to completely separate treatments. The initial reception to the three Verve Concept vehicles said it all - the core design worked for everyone."
"The Verve Concept project was a proof point for us, in design terms," adds Martin Smith, Executive Director of Design for Ford of Europe, creator of Ford of Europe's signature kinetic design. "Future Styles in design and style will increasingly be influenced by Asia and there is an increasing appetite there for Western designs - what's cool in London is also cool in Beijing. We showed how interpretation of a strong signature design theme can work universally yet be tailored in details for local tastes."
With an identified market for a global small car, Ford's attention turned towards the feasibility of producing a car on a global basis. Here, Ford used lessons of past developments and collaborations.
"Previous attempts at creating a global Ford car were about adapting one region's product for another, retrospectively," says Marin Burela. "Before, it was about fitting the customers to the car, rather than the car to the customers. Our challenge was to create an entirely new process, one that required us to do things differently and collaborate on a different level, not separated by regional requirements."
A business case was established for a production car, but this case was not based on a global sales figure. Ford did not set one, instead creating a detailed development process and a flexible manufacturing system to ensure the company could react quickly to customer demand.
Such a process also ensured that quality procedures could be replicated in manufacturing locations around the world, essential in creating a common new Fiesta production quality.
Global Product Development System
All-new Fiesta is the first global Ford product developed using key methodologies from the new Ford Global Product Development System (GPDS).
GPDS uses the latest in digital design, engineering and manufacturing technologies to bring products to market from the drawing board quicker than ever. It also facilitates high levels of manufacturing flexibility and product differentiation between different brands based on a common platform. This was essential in allowing Ford and Mazda to work together efficiently to share the core, yet invisible base architecture for their individual small cars.
"GPDS is essentially an extension of previous product development collaboration within the Ford family," explains Burela. "For example, the latest European Focus shares technologies and certain components and architectures with the Volvo S40/V50 and the Mazda 3."
For small cars, Ford and Mazda engineers collaborated closely on key engineering elements of a new architecture, bringing together the best of their respective areas of expertise. The approach delivered a strong foundation that would enable the two brands to design individual vehicles and customise the attributes of their respective products, choosing from an array of technologies that can be tuned to provide specific customer benefits.
"We undertook a complete CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) assessment at the attribute level and conducted two events to virtual-build the new car completely in the digital environment," says Dieter Schwarz, Vehicle Engineering Manager for all-new Fiesta globally. "This helped us identify any manufacturing issues very early in the development process, and that made a huge difference when we started actual production. Our first test-build on the production line had very few issues and the second one sailed through."
Global Range Unveiled
The unveiling of all-new Fiesta production cars around the world shows how the application of kinetic design can be adapted to meet local market tastes. The all-new Fiesta reveal at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2008 showed the minor differences in exterior design between the European and Asian versions.
The same will be true of the way they drive. Whether it is an all-new Fiesta built in Cologne, Germany, or Nanjing, China, it will have the same chassis architecture. However, in Ford's global engineering approach, new Fiestas around the world will be tuned to suit regional driving conditions and customer preferences.
"For all their similarities in style and design, there remain some fundamental differences in customer tastes around the world - and this is most apparent in vehicle dynamics tuning," Dieter Schwarz explains. "Some markets, such as Europe, have a bias toward handling. Others, like Asia, tend to prioritise ride comfort. Regardless of which country you drive new Fiesta in, the car will have the right characteristics for its surroundings."
For example, all-new Fiesta's shared independent MacPherson front suspension and a twist-beam rear suspension has been adapted with honed bushings, spring and damper rates for different regions. European Fiesta models will have a thicker diameter, stiffer torsion bar in the rear suspension, a feature designed to deliver that trademark Fiesta handling prowess on twisting roads.
Lessons learned with all-new Fiesta will be very important to Ford's future. The all-new Fiesta range will be the first of Ford's global car family.
"We've made it clear this is just the beginning," says Marin Burela. "A new global car range will follow our small car range, but with a much shorter time between regional models being unveiled and launched. This is the future."