IT’S no surprise the Goodwood Festival of Speed attracts top names like Lando Norris, Jenson Button and Damon Hill.
But the bloke I was most excited to catch up with was Ford chief Jim Farley.
Because what’s going on in his head right now affects what we’ll be driving in the next five to ten years.
Jim was nice and loose-tongued about where Ford is going before jumping in the wild 1,400hp electric Mustang Mach-E. Here’s what you need to know.
The legendary all-American Bronco WILL come to Britain as an EV. There’ll be a Puma family, from van to WRC rally car.
And he promised Ford’s first electric car for the masses, due in 2023, would be fun to drive and affordable, as all Fords should be. A third battery-powered car, sitting between the crossover and Mach-E, is also in the pipeline.
Jim also revealed that two of his most valued assets are “British exports” Transit and chief engineer Darren Palmer.
Here’s ten minutes inside the mind of one of the most powerful men in the car world.
RG: Is this your first Goodwood experience?
JF: First experience driving, yeah. I was here several years ago with Ford Of Europe and it changed the way I look at motor shows for ever. This is the gold standard globally of how you activate customers.
What are you driving up the hill?
Roger Penske’s Australian Supercars V8 Mustang — and the 1,400hp Mach-E. Yeah!
It’s wet. Don’t bin it trying to be a hero. People just want pictures.
No flamboyance. I’m not a professional. But I’ll stop and do a little burnout. It’s a pretty funky car.
So is the hybrid Puma, your new WRC car.
It’s a big deal. Ford’s history in rally has been continuous since the Sixties. The Puma makes the transition to partial electrification, having our utility strategy (crossover and SUVs) go to motor sports. It’s all good.
Bringing the Puma name back and moving it to motor sports, so we can do the performance versions we should at Ford. It’s all good.
It’s great to see the car here. WRC is a very important project for us because it creates digital content globally.
Puma is selling well. Do you see it overtaking Fiesta as Britain’s favourite car at some point?
It could happen. Our industry has always changed. The body style silhouette was estates years ago, then it became hatchbacks and now crossovers. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that happened.
I don’t know if it will. We’re going to make sure Fiesta continues to be really successful but if that’s what customers choose, that’s what customers choose.
What I’m most proud of about that product is Darren Palmer. The chief engineer for the Mustang Mach-E was also the chief engineer for Puma. He’s from the UK and, like Transit, he is one of the most important UK exports from Ford.
By “export”, I mean excellence in Essex and excellence in Transit. We made Transit global.
It is now No1 in its category in China, in Russia, in North America. Around the world, Transit is a global product engineered in the UK.
You may be able to say that about some Jaguar Land Rover cars but there is no more important volume product in our current industry globally that’s UK-invented than the Transit. And the Puma’s father came from here. So I’m not surprised it’s had this kind of connection with people.
We have to invest in it. That means we have to have new versions, like we have for Fiesta.
We came out with so many different versions of Fiesta that made it successful, from vans all the way up to RS. We’re going to have to make the same investment in Puma for it to be number one.
And the rally car is an important part of that, the poster hero?
Absolutely. It looks the part.
Transit is outselling everything in the UK and Ford van sales are catching your car sales. Are we close to a tipping point?
In the next few years. The general trend of Ford, the centre of gravity of our European business, is com-mercial vehicles. We are number one and we are naturally good at it.
When Ford wakes up in the morning and all those engineers walk into Dunton, we are really good at those vehicles.
Better than the French, better than the Germans. Same with pick-up trucks and Ranger. That’s natural for us.
I think our pasture car brand is going to be more specialty, enthusiast, opinionated products. Just look at what we’ve done with Mustang. We have a family of Mustangs now. We will have a family of other vehicles.
I’m sure there will come a day when we have an off-road brand in the UK. In the US, we are building a family of Broncos.
You previously hinted that Bronco could come to the UK. Have you decided yet?
No but I think the signals are pretty clear — to me, at least. Who wouldn’t want a Bronco? And who wouldn’t want to race a Bronco?
If you love Mustang, you’re gonna love Bronco. It’s the same idea of freedom and independence and, you know: “I’m going to tell my boss I’m not coming into work today because I’m going to go out in my Bronco.”
How long between making that decision and seeing it on the street in Britain?
It depends on the execution. If it was an electric one, which would probably makes sense for us, or petrol, about five years, not two years, somewhere in there.
But it’s your wish to see Bronco as a global product?
Absolutely, yes. What Ford does great is Escort Mexicos and Cosworth Sierras. That’s our brand.
And we are Fiesta and Focus and we are STs. That’s who we are. We make vehicles that are affordable but they are enthusiasts’ products. That’s when we are at our best. I would like every one of our passenger cars to be that kind of flavour. Like a bunch of M&Ms — they all taste great but you’ve got green ones and brown ones and red ones. I don’t want any generic products.
Ford has been guilty of making cars that do a job, good people movers and so on, but they’re a bit bland. Whereas the Puma ST is exciting, bright green . . .
Fast Ford. That’s us. Put that together with Transit and Ranger and we’ve got an exciting business that’s profitable but most importantly, it’s a vibrant brand.
We want our employees to proudly say: “I worked on that Puma.” Sorry, I’m getting teary-eyed because I don’t know why it has taken us so long to figure that out!
Let’s talk electric cars. You’re using Volkswagen’s electric toolkit as the base for Ford’s first mass-market EV.
How are you going to put Ford’s stamp on it? Some EVs feel a bit soulless. Are you working round the clock to make sure this isn’t just another “me too” car?
Yeah, I will hold our team in Europe to a very high standard — the same standard you and I are talking about.
Puma was a journey, right? A great car like Puma doesn’t just happen because of focus groups and corporate meetings. It happened because Darren Palmer goes: “I’m going to make this better than a (Porsche) Macan.”
Now you say that, it is a bit like a mini Macan . . .
I used that very intentionally because we had lots of discussion about it. I was boss of Ford Of Europe when we created that car.
We worked damn hard at it and we fought and yelled at each other until it was a good car. Until it fit.
The people’s Macan? Too much of a stretch?
Print it! As leaders, we can’t have a vision for the brand I just described then let vehicles that don’t match that through the system. It requires a few people to stand up and say: “It’s not good enough.”
We are in the process of creating the EV, so let the process play out. I’m very confident a few people on the Ford system can make a difference. That’s why we got Puma, that’s our standard.
People know that’s what I expect and what everyone will expect. Frankly, as long as the top leadership supports the team, we get those kind of cars out of Ford Of Europe and Ford Of Great Britain naturally.
You sound invigorated.
Some bosses do peddle BS.
I’ve got my racesuit on, man! This is what I do — cars. I don’t play golf. I race.
Speaking of which, it’s time . . .
It’s time not to make a fool of myself. I’ll take your advice.
I’m off to play in Hannu Mikkola’s Mk1 Escort.
All right! OK, so you’re busy.
It’s like a day off for me . . .
Isn’t it? It keeps your mind away from everything. I’m with you. Take care.