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Interview with Adrian Whittle, Fusion chief engineer

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Interview with Adrian Whittle, Fusion chief engineer

Engineer Q&A: Adrian Whittle, Fusion chief engineer (former chief engineer, Focus and Fiesta)

On the main engineering goals for Fusion:

Efficiency with a variety of powertrain options. Exterior design: We wanted to be a leader. They were probably the big two. The final one was that we wanted to take the Mondeo's dynamics, move those forward while fixing the ride, because the Mondeo's traits were a lot of steering and handling against ride. And in this market you can't really have that. We made that mistake with a few cars in the past, so that was the final thing, was to fix the ride. How to keep the exterior exactly how it was originally designed [was another].

Did you shoot for 37 mpg beforehand? Was that something that just came to be?

We ranged it, but we knew that we needed to be somewhere in the 35 to 45 range. When you're years before (in the engineering process), you set pretty high-level targets like, say, when you focus on 40 mpg, you do small changes, get there, and continue to watch what your competitors are doing.

One that surpassed our expectations was the hybrid, though. We didn't think we could get that (47 mpg) -- especially 47 city AND 47 highway. It makes you wonder how you get to 50 mpg. That's a much nicer number. That's the business that we're in - we'll find a way.

What about the talk of bringing other variants to the U.S.?

Once we start getting capacity out of Hermosillo, then we'll start looking at other variants. The market just doesn't seem to be going that way -- that's the only thing. You know in the company we love our wagons. In Europe, they're over 50 percent of the mix. It's amazing there's been a big shift in C/D-sized sedan - about 70 percent for us was wagons. So we put a lot of effort into getting it right for Europe. It's a beautiful car, but honestly, I just don't see it for the U.S. market. But maybe... You know, you never say never. The car's global, and we can easily get that car federalized if we wanted it here.

What about bringing a diesel?

Same thing. It's exactly the same thing. We're watching VW and Audi and they're pushing [diesel] but they're not really getting anywhere with that strategy. I think this market is going to move to more and more electrified. [Diesels] are more expensive with all the technology that cleans them up: particulate traps and Ox filters, etc. Generally speaking, that's probably $2000 added; well, that's the cost of a lithium-ion battery. So you can see how the markets go different ways.

So many of the testers today have black interiors. Any other color option?

Yep, we call it June. About 20 percent of our mix is supposed to be June, 80 percent black. And that's pretty much free customer demand. They just choose it as an option. It doesn't cost them anything.

How much of the Mondeo is Fusion and vice versa?

They're about 80 percent similar. A little bit of the front structure is different to satisfy the European legal differences. Which, you know, aren't so different in terms of high-speed crash, but Europe has pedestrian protection crash requirements, which, if you want to be a five-star car, you have to do well in that. So there are a few differences built into the car for that.

But other than that, it's really a common car. Everything you touch is pretty much the same part.

And then the two body styles. We do a wagon and a five-door hatch for Europe. Three body styles but we sell half the total volume that we do here. Europe is a difficult market because, you know, Germans are different than Brits and they're different than Italians.

Each of the countries has a domestic manufacturer that kind of sets the agenda. It's hard to compete in Europe effectively. Ford does a good job, however.

Do you think there's an Aston Martin influence in the design?

There was some talk in the world press that we used our Aston connections to design this shape, but we didn't. It's really just the way we wanted to move towards.

I lived day in and day out next to lead designer Chris Hamilton for the first couple years that we were sorting it out, and he was never looking at design photos of Astons.

Was it difficult to meet your engineering goals with such a stylized form?

Yes, it was actually. This exterior, which we love, was hard to deliver because it's not very package-efficient. It's very silhouetted -- there are a lot of curves and shapes and sweeps in it. And one of the things that we absolutely had as a hard point was that all of the interior dimensions had to be equal or better than the outgoing Fusion. And actually, we stretched it to be equal or better than the Camry as well. So keeping that exterior design while keeping the space inside was really tough.

The other thing that was quite hard was to get that shape to have such a low drag coefficient, because we needed the drag well below 0.30 to get to the fuel economy we were looking for. It's got such a big impact on fuel usage.

That shape is quite hard to get the drag we were looking for, so a lot of work was put into the lights. It's one of the reasons why the mirrors went down onto the doors; there's underbody shielding throughout, which is expensive and nobody gets to see it. It's kind of like the last place you want to put your money, but sometimes you need to because it delivers the attribute you're looking for.

So yeah, it was tough holding onto the design.

Is the Hybrid's underbody very different than those of the gasoline models?

No pretty it's much the same. The only thing with the Hybrid is that it's got every single aero tweak that we can give it so there is 100 percent shielding, even down to little tiny ones that we didn't put onto the gas models. Active Grille Shutters, which are on some of the gas models, but are on all of the hybrid models.

Can you explain Active Grille Shutters?

The big grille opening at the front -- if you have no choice, it's got to be fully open all the time to suit the requirements for when you need maximum cooling, which is wide open throttle, going uphill, and in hot weather. But most of the time -- 90 percent of the time -- you can shut them down because the car isn't demanding so much cooling. You close the grille shutters and you'll get about 0.10 Cd aero improvement. The air instead of going through the engine gets blocked and goes over the car which is a much better place to send it.

Other than that, the hybrid is largely the same car. We kind of tried to kind of view the Hybrid as a powertrain option, rather than sort of like Prius which is a whole new car and body style. [Inside] in general, we didn't want to clutter the interface, too [with hybrid-specific menus and buttons].

How has One Ford gone thus far? Is engineering a car easier?

Well, we're getting there. I was the chief engineer on the Focus and that was really the first effort to getting a global car going under Alan Mulally. And that was tough because we were still very different engineering centers in Germany, Britain, Ford of Europe, and North America.

But with this car it kind of all came together because we've got, like, Derrick Kuzak that took over the whole of product development globally, and Raj Nair that has now got his new job here, and so everything is kind of lined up now. It's getting easier. We've now got one set of standards to meet; we know what we're trying to do.

So I think you see this car kind of really pulls it all together. And from now on, it'll just get easier and easier.

I would say the Focus was hard work. It really was, kind of, "Is it a European car? Is it a North American car? What are the priorities?" We ended up getting there but it was hard process and eventually things got easier.

I'd say it is the first ground-up example [of One Ford]. It's kind of the ultimate one that we've done. It sets the standard for us internally.

It's also the one that we had to get right. The Fusion is so critical to North America. This is the one that we knew we couldn't make any compromises with.

There is a lot of interest in Europe about whether One Ford will dumb down some of the European flavor of the car. Because Ford of Europe moved a long way about a decade ago, from bland cars that were just cheap, to expressive cars that tried to stand for something. And the thing that we wanted to stand for was really driving dynamics. So we had a boss over there named Richard Parry-Jones -- a pretty well-known guy, ex-rally driver. And I think that's the sort of thing you see a lot of in Europe.

The Focus, I think a lot of people say that it held onto its core attributes: dynamics of the car. But that was engineered in Europe. Now the question in peoples' minds is, Well now, let's see how a car that's engineered in North America will be like. Because you know, like in every country, there's a prejudice about what different markets care about.

It's really hard to explain how driving in Europe is different than driving in the U.S. You do it and you kind of know it. To try to understand it, I don't know -- it's the way the roads are, the curbs, the way other people are driving around you. Some 70 percent of people are driving manuals, so that causes a different flow of traffic.
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