There were decent reasons: to provide an interesting photo backdrop, to show Farley the comprehensive picture collection we have of his early mentor, the late F1 champion and car collector Phil Hill, and to spark his interest in our coverage of Ford’s history. Maybe even to dig out a few pictures of the two Lola racing cars he campaigns in classic events, characteristically without fuss.
After just a few minutes, it was clear that Farley never boasts. He listens almost as much as he talks.
Farley began his car industry career as a product planner at Lexus USA in 1990. He chose Toyota rather than an American company because theirs was an opportunity to work with engineers on a whole car, rather than pieces of it, as with the others. In 25 years, he has progressed from the bottom to the very top.
This new Ford of Europe gig gives him day-to-day charge of his idea of a near-perfect business: one that dreams up the new models it then builds and sells.
He cites several other incentives for crossing the Atlantic. One was a conviction (formed while working in Phil Hill’s restoration shop, a two-year stint that earned him “a PhD in cars”) that Europe continues to make the world’s best cars. Another was the belief that embracing Ford of Europe’s design and manufacturing practices greatly helped the company to achieve its global One Ford ambitions, espoused by then-president and CEO Alan Mulally.
I hadn’t heard Europe’s contribution to One Ford described this way before and remark on it, whereupon Farley reinforces the comment. “I joined Ford from Toyota in 2007 because of the strength of Ford of Europe’s model line-up,” he explains. “The Premier Automotive Group cars were still around, but I was looking directly at the core Ford product and its DNA, which I knew quite well because I’d been competing directly against them. I could see Ford was going to be able to achieve its objectives.”
But that was all eight years ago. Today’s challenges are different, and Farley articulates his view of them very clearly. “We must decide what Ford of Europe’s next gift to the group will be,” he says, “and it should be something the group couldn’t or wouldn’t do on its own.”
Specifics will have to wait a bit, says Farley, who lives in London with his wife and three children, but he is already spotting trends and influences that will inform the European Fords of the future.
“There is a tension in Ford between building global products and catering for local needs,” he says, “but it’s healthy. I’m seeing trends in Europe that will definitely go global. There are interpretations of volume models – Citroën Cactus and Renault Captur are good examples – that you don’t see elsewhere at present. These are proving very attractive to regular hatchback customers. It isn’t traditional sportiness that excites them, but the magic is definitely back.
We already know that how we execute our next B-sized vehicle – and not just the five-door hatch but the whole portfolio – could be an important gift to our whole group.”
He has lived in Europe (Brussels) before, but Farley is finding his London life instructive. In some ways, he says, the capital is “one of the grand experiments in new mobility. Where else in Europe would they close such an important piece of road as London’s Embankment to dedicate a large part of it to bicycles?”