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Whos Where: Ford of Europe reshapes their design department

Mon, 29 Nov 2004 00:00:00 -0800It was only to be expected that some of the brightest creative forces should follow Martin Smith who joined Ford of Europe from his position as GM Europe Design Director in August this year. Stefan Lamm was a studio chief designer at Opel - he was recently confirmed as Chief Designer Exteriors at Ford.

At the same time two new appointments were announced alongside an interesting restructuring of Ford of Europe's design department. Martin Smith, with the title of Executive Director of Design, and Chris Bird, Design Director are realigning the dedicated design group to integrate more fully and efficiently the company's interior and exterior design functions, and this integration will cover Ford's two European Design Centres in Dunton (UK) and Merkenich (Germany). Chris Bird will lead a renewed emphasis on integration and operational control within the European Design Group and will play a key role in the shaping of Fords future European Design DNA, an official announcement said.

"There are two key opportunities that need to be seized by Ford of Europe Design, " said Martin Smith. "There is the creative one of evolving a more emotive design language for the Ford brand that will distinguish it in the future market place by offering outstanding designs for our customers. Then there are the opportunities to develop the optimum design solutions for changing legislative and safety requirements, particularly in the area of pedestrian protection."

Martin Smith moved to Opel from Audi in 1998 (the same year that Bird moved from Audi to Ford) with some great highlights behind him. For instance the Avus or some of the magnificent Audi interiors (on the A3 he was responsible for the interior when Bird took charge of the exterior - these two can obviously work well together). At Opel he raised the design goalposts in a very short time - just look at the latest Astra range, and the Insigna concept car for instance. On both these Stefan Lamm was the lead exterior designer.

Stefan Lamm graduated from Art Center Europe and from there he went straight to Opel where his first job was the Concept A (Geneva 1999) which previewed the Agila. But you can say that the circle a closed in a strange way, as one of his more interesting works as a student in Switzerland was a Ford Compact Car 2000 study which he presented in 1993.

In the new Design Group Lamm is joined by Nikolaus Vidakovic as Chief Designer, Interiors in the restructured organisation. His latest works can be seen on the new Focus, where he acted as head of interior design. Vidakovic' CV is also fairly gypsy-like. When Bird look over from Claude Lobo, as Head of Design FoU in 1998 he fetched Niko Vidakovic from the Hyundai/Kia studio just outside Frankfurt. That was hardly because he had made his mark there to an outwardly noticable degree, but rather because Bird new his work from their VW/Audi time together. And someone who had done the interior of VW's interesting pre-Smart Chico concept (Frankfurt, 1991) must be worth a call.

The third man to be found in an important position in the new group is Ford veteran Claudio Messale. His complex title is Chief Designer, Exterior Execution and Feasibility, and his even more complex responsibility is to oversee the translation of exterior design into production reality across all car lines.

Messale has been with Ford all his life. A native of Italy, born in Macerata in 1960, he came to real prominence when Ghia showed their incredible Focus two-seater concept roadster in Torino 1992. At Ford's infamous auction of Ghia prototypes this was the car that reached the highest bid, and was designed by Taru Lathi and Sally Wilson with Messale as project coordinator. After he went to Ford proper he has been chief designer C and C/D vehicles, and has had much to say both on the current C-Max and the new Focus.

This seems to be a strong team and a potent organisation. What we are looking forward to now is how GM Europe is going to reinforce their organisation.