Matthias Tonn is Chief Programme Engineer Performance Cars for Ford, responsible for unleashing the Ford Performance potential in every Focus or Fiesta. In recent years he’s worked on the original Focus RS, the first-generation Focus ST, the Focus RS500, the Fiesta ST200, and the European set-up for the new Ford Mustang. Matthias clearly has his finger on the pulse of what makes a successful fast Ford. He’s currently working on the all-new Fiesta ST due on sale next year, but found time to tell us how he shapes a Ford Performance product.
What was the first Ford you drove?
“When I was a student, a friend bought a red Granada with a big engine – it was very cool for cruising. Another friend bought a Fiesta. We loaded it with windsurfing equipment and drove down to Gibraltar, travelling about 6,000km in five weeks. It never stopped, it never broke down. This brought Ford to my attention.”
What’s your favourite Ford race or rally car?
“The Ford GT – the coolest car Ford has made, in terms of technology and getting it all together to make a true racing car.”
What is your favourite on-screen appearance for a Ford car?
“The Mustang in Bullitt – the Steve McQueen car. Every time I see a picture of that car, I think ‘wow’! Taking the question literally, the car I have on my computer screen desktop is the all-new Fiesta ST that I’m in charge of now. Every day I look at the picture, and it reminds me what I’m aiming for.”
We think of the hot hatch as a European concept. How do you make it something with global appeal?
“With the original Focus ST and Fiesta ST, it was decided they should be sold globally. We did some research, and all customers – from Europe to Australia to America – wanted the same thing. They wanted the ‘cool cars from Europe’ they had heard about. From the performance side, that means the driving dynamics that make the hot hatch a true European product. Wherever you drive it, the essence of the car is the same.”
Similarly the Ford Mustang is an American icon – how do you translate that for a new European audience?
“It’s vice versa. The Mustang is a true American muscle car, so it was designed and developed in America, but it needs to deal with high-speed Autobahns in Germany or twisty B-roads in the UK. We needed the right chassis set-up for these conditions. In Europe, customers see the Mustang as a true performance car, and many people want the V8. The market is different, but the car is the same!”
How important is technology when it comes to making cars like the Focus RS and Mustang appeal to new global audiences?