GUNNAR HERRMANN: ARCHITECT OF FORD’S GLOBAL C-SEGMENT PLATFORM HAS ALWAYS BEEN KEY FOCUS PLAYER
vehicle line director,
Global C-segment Platform
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- Gunnar Herrmann is the vehicle line director for Ford’s global C-segment platform, which is to be the basis for 10 vehicle shapes and annual production exceeding 2 million units by 2012
- Herrmann has been a key member of the Focus product development team since the original Focus, which was revealed in 1998
- Besides driving, Herrmann’s passions include skiing, cooking and vintage motorcycles
Gunnar Herrmann remembers getting the call from a Ford executive in 1999 after the Ford Focus won Europe’s coveted Car of the Year award. His key role in the creation of the original Focus was about to become a bigger one.
Herrmann, a friendly, capable German, would be promoted to chief program engineer for the Ford Focus line. It’s the top job for any vehicle engineer at Ford – the chief program engineer is responsible for developing the entire vehicle.
“I thought ‘That’s my job,’” remembers Herrmann, who has played a major role in the evolution of the Ford Focus over three vehicle generations. The car has become the lynchpin of the Ford range in Europe and today is at the vanguard of Ford’s expanded global car strategy.
“That was a cool offer,” he says. “The opportunity to control a whole vehicle…that’s the biggest job you can imagine.”
Herrmann, who just turned 50, had served as body engineering manager for the original Focus and vividly remembers how the car evolved into its ultimate winning design with a torsionally stiff body structure that contributed to its superior handling. He says understanding the ethos of that original vehicle has been an important part of shepherding the subsequent generations, each of which have been major evolutions.
Herrmann steered development work for the second-generation Focus that debuted in 2004, but before that happened he got promoted again. This time – in 2002 – he was named vehicle line director for the C-segment products of Ford of Europe. It’s a job he still has today – one that’s more important than ever in Ford’s worldwide business.
Herrmann is the architect of a new platform of C-segment products that will be worldwide in reach. It’s the world’s largest segment of vehicles, and Ford hopes to sell more than 2 million units – led by the next-generation Ford Focus – from 10 different vehicle shapes it will produce.
Its importance to Ford is in leveraging reach and scale globally. The new platform replaces three different C-segment platforms currently in production in world markets. And it’s symbolic of Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally’s ONE Ford strategy to create a new generation of global vehicles that will characterize the brand in the future.
Herrmann says the strategy has been a positive change that has energized the product development plan and aligned the business. At the heart is operating as ONE Ford, and Herrmann says that mind-set is reflected directly into the character of the new global products.
“When you hear Alan Mulally speak, your immediate reaction is that he must be talking about us as the Ford organization,” Herrmann says. “But then I realize, hey, he’s talking about me, specifically.”
Speaking with the calm and humble Herrmann is reassurance that this important vehicle family is in the right hands.
“Sure, it’s a tremendous responsibility,” he said, “but I’ve really spent my entire career at Ford in C-cars and I feel like I’m actually creating my own cars. And I know these cars down to their DNA. You have a relationship with them. They develop and grow like your children.”
Herrmann says Ford’s new C-car platform is significant because he believes it is the first car line at Ford that will be a real family.
“This is the first time where we have a real portfolio. There’s a car for every life stage in it.”
Herrmann, who said even a pressure-packed job should still be fun, drives a current-generation Focus RS.
“I love this car,” he says. “It’s such a fantastic product that it makes you want to drive the extra mile just because it’s so much fun.”
Herrmann can’t reveal all of Ford’s plans for the C-cars of the future, but says they’ll be great to drive.
So far, Ford has revealed the next-generation Focus and two other products of the future platform family. At the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, Ford unveiled the next-generation C-MAX multi-activity vehicle (MAV) and the new Grand C-MAX, a seven-seat MAV with sliding rear doors. This vehicle will be introduced in the United States in 2011 as a promised whitespace vehicle.
A native of Leverkusen, Germany, just across the Rhine River from Ford’s Merkenich Product Development Center where he is now based, Herrmann started his career with a Ford apprenticeship in body construction in 1979. Upon completion, he entered university in Hamburg to study body engineering, and Ford approached him during his studies to sponsor him if he would make Ford his career choice. While working at Ford, he would later earn a master’s degree in advanced automotive engineering at Loughborough University in England.
He and his wife now live over the river from Ford’s Cologne base in a house they renovated. Their two children are both away at the moment – his 21-year-old daughter studying at university in Tübingen, Germany, and his 17-year-old son spending a year as an exchange student in Melbourne, Australia.
Herrmann calls his house a paradise that makes him question the need to travel. But he does travel, for work and for pleasure. The family enjoys skiing, particularly in the Austrian Alps.
And Herrmann has become an avid cook. His favorite dish to prepare is paella.
“Every weekend, the cooking is my job,” he said. “I love going to the market, getting the fresh ingredients and spending Saturday afternoon cooking while enjoying a glass of wine.”
Herrmann’s master recipe is a new range of C-sized vehicles for the world. Each of his creations will be unique – led by the next-generation Focus.
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- Gunnar Herrmann drives a Focus RS
- Passionate about motorcycles, he is embarking on restoration of a 1945 BMW R42 motorcycle
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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 .
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