JENS LUDMANN: FROM MATCHBOX TO MASS PRODUCTION, FOCUS CHIEF ENGINEER HAS CARS IN HIS BLOOD

JENS LUDMANN: FROM MATCHBOX TO MASS PRODUCTION, FOCUS CHIEF ENGINEER HAS CARS IN HIS BLOOD


Jens Ludmann,
chief program engineer,
Next-generation Ford Focus
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  • Jens Ludmann is the chief program engineer for the next-generation Ford Focus globally
  • Ludmann is a native of Cologne, Germany, where he works in Ford’s small car center of excellence
  • Ludmann came to the Focus development team after serving as chief program engineer of the recently redesigned Ford Galaxy and the sporty, kinetic design-infused Ford S-MAX, which won Europe’s Car of the Year honors when it was launched in 2007

It has been many years since Jens Ludmann was a car-fanatic kid in Cologne, Germany, playing religiously with his Matchbox scale-model car collection every day. Now, a stone’s throw and a few decades away, he leads a team developing an important new car on a truly global scale for Ford Motor Company.

Ford’s European base is in the Cologne suburb of Merkenich, and Ludmann is the chief program engineer for one of Ford’s most important global products – the next-generation Ford Focus.

“From the time I was 6 or 7, I was mad about cars,” says Ludmann, age 45. “I had maybe 140 Matchbox cars and I took them to school where I played with them and had races in the schoolyard.”

Today, Ludmann is working on a much larger scale as Ford prepares to launch the next-generation Focus into volume production globally. It is the flagship of a new range of global C-segment products. Ford expects to exceed 2 million units of annual production by 2012.

Cologne is the epicenter of Ford’s European small car center of excellence, where Ludmann and the Focus product-development design and engineering team is based. It’s a significant role for the hometown Cologne boy. The world is now his automotive schoolyard.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility,” says Ludmann, who joined the next-generation Focus engineering team after serving as chief program engineer for Ford of Europe on other Ford products, most recently the redesign of the Ford Galaxy and the creation of a sporty, kinetic design-infused whitespace multi-activity vehicle (MAV) called the Ford S-MAX, which won Europe’s Car of the Year honors when it was launched in 2007.

It’s a new product launch that earned him the honor of being among Automotive News Europe’s “Eurostars” list of the best executives in the European car industry.

He believes the next-generation Focus will make an even bigger impact globally.

“This is a fantastic first car from the global ONE Ford strategy,” Ludmann said.

“It’s a huge step forward for Ford in the area of fuel economy, while still doing everything it’s always done well even better. We introduce EPAS [Electric Power Assist Steering] not only without compromise, but actually with better steering feel, and we’ve made major strides in ride quality, too. It’s a great car made even better.”

Ludmann isn’t a career Ford man. He joined the company in 2000 after serving as managing director of a research engineering firm that pursued early hybrid vehicles, composite materials and other advanced technologies.

It was a chat over the breakfast table that inspired him to move into the mainstream car industry.
“I was chatting with my wife and she asked me why I studied what I did in university,” Ludmann said. “I told her that it was to study engineering cars, and her answer was ‘Well, why don’t you get a job with a car company?’”

The suggestion made Ludmann receptive to a Ford engineering-talent recruitment drive in 2000. He has since become a senior engineer for Ford, including roles in England and the United States. His current role requires extensive contact with Ford personnel around the world to ensure the next-generation Focus meets global customer expectations.

The answer is promising, he said.

“I think the time is right for global products even though historically they haven’t been very successful. But the world has moved on, I think. Communication is much better and faster these days and customer tastes around the world have moved closer together. 

“The next-generation Focus has been developed as a global car from the beginning,” he added.  “That makes it different from ‘global’ cars of the past, which have been developed for one region and then adapted, or federalized, for other regions. That isn’t the case with the Focus because we’ve looked at every aspect of its requirements globally.”

Perhaps especially because he is a former collector of Matchbox cars of all shapes, Ludmann seems apologetic about what’s in his garage now that he’s an adult.

“My garage is empty,” he shrugs. “Just bricks and stuff. There’s no hot car at the moment.”
That’s unusual for a senior role in the car industry and for a person who “loves everything with an engine, anything fast.” He and colleagues even drove a Mondeo touring car to a class victory last summer at the 24-hour race around the classic Nürburgring, not far from his Cologne base.

But, like his strategy for creating a new Ford C-car for the world, Ludmann has a plan.

“The garage is waiting for something special,” he said. “I’m looking for a good, used Aston Martin DB9. I’ve got just the spot for it.”

They say the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. 

Personal Insights and Fun Facts

  • Ludmann drives a Ford S-MAX
  • Ludmann and his wife have two daughters, ages 11 and 13. They reside in Cologne, Germany
  • The 1965 Ford Mustang is his dream car

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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 200,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.

Jan. 11, 2010

 

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