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NY Auto Show: Of Ford and Top Hats

Ford Motor Co. is amidst an overhaul of its global product development process to make it more efficient and cost effective. The 2009 Fiesta, for example, to be launched in Europe this Fall and in North America a year later, is on one common global platform with slightly different “top-hats” of sheet metal and trim.

The automaker is taking things a step further, report sources, with the next generation Ford Fusion and Mondeo (pictured above). The Mondeo is a sedan/wagon sold in Europe. It has been common knowledge that Ford plans to develop the cars commonly for the future. But this week, product planners and designers who wanted unique “top-hats” for the two cars got the news that the two will be the same car with the same hat.

The planners were over-ruled by CEO Alan Mulally and head marketer Jim Farley. The expected savings of doing the same car should be around $300 million to $450 million in costs.

Some are worried that the same car won’t fly in both markets. But that flies in the face of Mulally’s favorite benchmark, Toyota, which sells a global Corolla and Camry.

It will be interesting to see who leads on design and what the outcome will be. Ford Europe chief designer Martin Smith handled the design of the Mondeo, which is a considerably slicker design than the Fusion. While the Fusion is a respectable piece of work, it was made a bit softer and flabbier to meet the sensibilities that Ford designers feel its American buyers look for.

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