Jost Capito, 50, moved from Europe to Dearborn in January to head up a new division that will create high-performance road cars from Ford’s new global range of cars. Capito is best known for fathering the Focus RS, but he has also run Ford’s European motorsport operation, and before joining Ford he ran Sauber F1. Capito cut his teeth as a race engineer on BMW’s all-conquering M3 touring cars in the late 1980s. He granted Autocar his first British interview in his new job.
Tell us about the new job…I am responsible for creating performance road cars based on the next range of global road car platforms being created under the ‘One Ford’ banner. Motorsport is the responsibility of other people — Mark Deans in Europe and Brian Wolfe in the US — although I am working with them to see what road car spin-offs we can create. And I’m attending a lot of motorsport in the US.
How will the department be organised?We will keep the Team RS and SVT [Special Vehicles Team] operations on both sides of the Atlantic and I will be based in Detroit. Team RS includes the ST models. But the business side of the new job is vital, so I need to be close to the decision makers in the US. I have around 100 people working full time. Then when we need to work on a car programme we borrow engineers from functional groups.
Is that how the Focus RS programme worked?Yes. For example, when we decided to design new bodywork to cover the RS’s wider rear track, we approached the Focus body engineers to design it. There was no point starting from scratch when there’s already somebody with the expertise.
What are your plans for global performance cars?I can’t tell you the specific models, because we’re still working on that right now, although we have some good ideas. I’ve just been in the job a few months and we’re in the planning stage. But we will keep specific North American and European performance models, as well as developing new global performance versions of production cars that will be engineered for sale everywhere in the world.
How many global models will there be?The size of the range — three, four or five models, or whatever — has no fixed limits. But every performance car will have to make a profit. If we can present profitable models to management, then we can get investment.
You will have to make sense of a tangle of international regulations. For example, can you get the same performance engine on sale both in Europe and North America?We have to. It would be too costly to engineer different engines for Europe and North America. Remember that powerplants are downsizing and getting closer in concept in North America and Europe, like the new EcoBoost turbo engines.
Are there any limits on the platforms you can use?No. As long as they are global, they will be potential global performance cars. We have Volvo and Mazda-related platforms in North America. If they are global cars, we can use them.
Ford had great success with the GT. If a similar project came up, would that fall within your remit?Yes, that would come under the global performance team’s responsibilities. But I wouldn’t say the time is right now for a dedicated supersports type of car.
The new Fiesta will be one of the first ‘One Ford’ global cars. Is a performance version possible?I can’t discuss future plans, but in Europe the Fiesta and Focus are too close to make two similar performance models work.
What about the Focus RS for America?Sadly, no. We’d like to, but the base car isn’t homologated for North America, and that’s too costly a job to carry out just for a niche vehicle like the RS.
Will you keep US muscle car models like the Shelby GT500 Mustang in the range for much longer?Yes. We will continue to do models specific to the Europe and US. In the US we have a one-car and one-truck strategy from SVT. The addition is coming from the global performance vehicles.
Because you are keeping the SVT and RS operations, will you have to find a new name for global models?
Good question. It’s something else we’re working on, but no decision yet. We certainly have to guard the RS badge and its motorsport heritage very carefully. We won’t put an RS badge on any type of car; it has to have a race or rally link.
Read about Capito's plans for the Ford Focus RS by clicking on "Ford: 'US won't get Focus RS'"