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Ford names Freeman Thomas as Strategic Design Director

Wed, 04 May 2005 00:00:00 -0700 Long-time DaimlerChrysler designer Freeman Thomas is joining Ford Motor Company from June 1. Thomas, 47, will become director of Strategic Design, reporting to Peter Horbury, executive director of Design, North America. Based in the company's Irvine, California studio, Thomas will lead advanced design teams in both California and Dearborn. In addition to developing product design strategies and concept vehicles, the Strategic Design team works closely with the Advanced Product Creation team in developing new production vehicles.

In addition to Mays and Horbury, Ford now has many high-profile designers in senior leadership positions, including Martin Smith, executive director of design, Ford of Europe; Geoff Upex, design director of Land Rover; Gerry McGovern, advanced design director of Land Rover; Ian Callum, design director of Jaguar; Steve Mattin, design director of Volvo; and Moray Callum, design director of Mazda.

Thomas, who resigned April 21 as head of DaimlerChrysler Pacifica Advanced Design Center, has created an enviable collection of vehicles and underlying strategies during his 22-year career. His work includes everything from the 500-horsepower Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle and the 'Noble American Sedan' strategy that evolved into the production version Chrysler 300C, to the Audi TT concept and Volkswagen Concept 1 (New Beetle), which he developed with Mays in the 1990s.

Thomas kicked off his career in 1983 as a senior designer at Porsche AG, after graduating from Art Center College of Design, which he attended on a Ford scholarship. He left Porsche in 1987 but continued working on Porsche product designs while heading his own design consultancy, teaching at Art Center and providing design analysis and reviews in popular automotive magazines.

Thomas joined Audi in 1991, helping deliver vehicle designs such as the Volkswagen Concept 1 and its cabriolet concept in 1994, as well as the Audi TT concept and the Audi TTS Spyder Concept the following year. He moved to SHR in 1996, following Mays, where the duo created an aluminum space-frame vehicle for Alcoa. He returned to Volkswagen in 1996 as chief designer in the Simi Valley, California, studio. He was named vice president of DaimlerChrysler Advanced Product Design Strategy in 1999, a position he filled until he was named the head of Pacifica Advanced Design Center in 2002.