Henry Ford's great grandson explains his love for the new Mustang, and confirms why he thinks the car will be a success in Europe
Steve Cropley Autocar
6 December 2013

Henry Ford's great grandson, Bill, who today is executive chairman of the family firm, is his family's principal Mustang-lover.

He has a collection of "less than 20" of them, and learned to drive in one. Speaking exclusively to Autocar at the new Ford Mustang's European debut, he talked about his love for the car, its significance in our market, and his expectations for Ford's future here.

Were you involved in the new Mustang's creation?

You bet I was. But I had to hold back to a degree so as not to interrupt the creative process of our designers. I saw about five proposals, some a little too retro and some that pushed the envelope a little too far. But in the end I think we did a good job.

What do like most about the car?

I'm happiest about its very nice interior. In the past we've done great sounds and great shapes, but the interior has been a weakness. The other big things that we've given the car are independent rear suspension, and we've done a lot of the work on the front end and the brakes.

Do you have memories of the original car's launch in 1964?

Sure I do. I was seven at the time, and my dad was forever bringing home cool stuff, but I remember this new sports car in particular. I spent a lot of time crawling through the car, and of course I wanted him to get one. I can remember sketching it and taking the drawing to school, but I was never good at drawing...

What did you think of the low-powered Mustang II models from the oil shock era?

I was never a fan. They weren't at all like the car we'd been building. But no-one knew what was ahead at that time - perhaps we were going to have to drive cars like that in the future. That certainly wasn't a high-spot in Mustang history.

You've said that Ford will be even more influential on the motoring scene in its second century than it has been in its first - did you mean that?

Well, I definitely expect it to be. If I look at the problems we're going to have to face, there are two main problems - environmental issues, and problems with urban mobility. When I first started talking about these things people thought I was crazy because they felt they detracted from the joy of car ownership. But I really believe we can solve the problems. Technology will provide the answers, if we keep searching. I'm convinced of that. Go back to my great grandfather's view that mobility drives personal freedom: that principle is as relevant as ever.

What will constitute success for the Mustang in Europe?

It's not a matter of volume, but reputation. Of course, we will want to sell respectable numbers, but what we want to demonstrate, with what we've done with the suspension, steering and brakes, is that this American icon can be an enjoyable, responsive car in Europe.

Can you summarise why you love the Mustang so much?

I think it's because they're attainable, yet still special. Many people can afford one, yet driving them has a special quality. And when you're driving in one, people always seem to want to talk to you, to comment all the time on your car. I drive my Mustangs all the time - I don't believe any car is there just to be looked at - and I always find it rewarding.

On Europe, do you truly believe the business is in recovery now?

If we hadn't been through what we've experienced in the US, I might not now feel confident to say so, but I believe we're on the right road in Europe. We've reduced production 18 per cent to meet our forecast future demand, and the demand is starting to roll again and the deals we're doing are based on firmer prices. It's not easy, but we're seeing reliable signs of recovery.

Given your hard times in the company, the recovery must give you a lot of pleasure...

Well, it wasn't all bad. I became chairman in 1999 and we had some good years, then I became CEO in 2002 and things kept rolling. In 2005 I could see the tidal wave was coming - that the market was heading into trouble, and I was chairman, president, CEO and COO. At the time, I went to the board and told them I needed help. That was when I went out and got Alan Mulally...

Alan's departure has been much discussed. Do you know yet when he'll leave?

No, not yet. We'll decide together. We certainly don't look forward to losing him. But I couldn't be happier with the way things are running in the company. Whenever it is needed, we have a great team ready to go.

Our Verdict

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Comments
5

6 December 2013
Ah but Ford were here before, in 1991. Out of a downturn, they promised 25 new cars in 3 years. Things were going to be amazing. And it all went wrong. The '93 Mondeo was never the world car they intended and they didn't even try with the Focus. Then the PAG disaster and their pointless flirtation with matters financial. This time around the world cars appear to be exactly that. Ford has no premium brands for it to screw up. And no Jac Nasser to help it do that. So this just might work.

6 December 2013
Seem to have sorted the big rear end, shame the centre console is MG6 plastic looking,it's a bit Michael Knight (K.I.T.T) as well instrument wise also,but, there moving in the right direction,talking about right,are we going to get RHD over here?

Peter Cavellini.

6 December 2013
I've owned more Fords than any other brand of car, yet today I won't look at them. I simply won't visit an Arnold Clark garage and that's about the only offering in the west of Scotland. That said, my brother bought a Focus ST and he's not that happy with it either. It's an 08 plate and already there's rust on the car - even though he's looked after it. Various bits have fallen off too. The quality isn't there. When buying he visited several Arnold Clark garages, including McHargs which is a front for Arnold Clark. Various different levels of dreadful service. First guy couldn't add up numbers in front of him even with a calculator, and charged twice for road tax! Second woman wanted a marriage proposal off him (I think that's what she meant by committment!). Third guy he bought from, but then sneakily deleted the factory fitted BlueTooth option to get extra mark up for the aftersales Parrot upgrade. It took over six months for Arnold Clark to finally retrofit BlueTooth. Neither of us will buy from Arnold Clark again. But as bad an experience that my brother has had with his ST he'd still beat a path to the Mustang!

6 December 2013
As I said on another website, I like what they've done with the styling. Its still quite clearly an American car but not screamed at your face at 200 decibels. Its more streamlined and sleek. I still think the likes of the Pro_Cee'd GT and Astra GTC look better, though. Apparently it'll come with SatNav, Launch Control (manual) and a 12 speaker system as standard with the option of a lower powered 2.3L Ecoboost engine pushing 305BHP. But the problems that will face this mustang will be price and reputation. Yes, he says that breaks and power and cornering (blah blah) will help build the Mustang's reputation in Europe. What he failed to mention was BUILD QUALITY. When I hear "Ford Mustang", I think a powerful car built like wet tissue paper with the refinement of a FlyMo sticky taped to your eardrum. For less than £31,995 you can get a 370Z GT brand spanking new with more power, BOSE sound system, SatNav and loads of other goodies. This Ford should strive to NOT deviate too much from those kinds of prices. These kinds of cars were always designed to be affordable. If it comes over here with a £35,000+ price tag you can pretty much kiss its chances of widespread sucess goodbye. [quote=Symanski]I've owned more Fords than any other brand of car, yet today I won't look at them. I simply won't visit an Arnold Clark garage and that's about the only offering in the west of Scotland. That said, my brother bought a Focus ST and he's not that happy with it either. It's an 08 plate and already there's rust on the car - even though he's looked after it. Various bits have fallen off too. The quality isn't there.[/quote] My two cousins used to have Fords; a Fiesta and a Focus. After less than a year and constant pains with the quality, the younger of the two now has a Kia Rio and the older a Vauxhall Meriva. Not a single problem and they couldn't be happier.

6 December 2013
Buy a Ford if you're only after a cheap and cheerful car which will fall apart in under six months.

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