By on January 16, 2015

All-NewFordGT_01_HR

A Ford engineer responds to our last piece on the Ford GT.

In “Ur-Turn: The Hater’s Guide to the Ford GT”, we get a glimpse into the Ford product development cycle for high-volume vehicles.  The authors, who humbly claim that it was a broad overview, give a rather complete account of the roles, responsibilities, and procedures behind nearly every Ford product that comes to market.  It’s a fascinating process, and it occurs every day at virtually every OEM and supplier.  But what happens when a particular design or system defies convention?  How do you validate something that is unlike anything your company has ever produced?  What happens when you push the product development envelope so far, that you enter a completely new and unfamiliar design space?  This is where we’ll find the Ford GT.

The GPDS framework that the authors describe is a rigorous process, combining elements of classical engineering disciplines, statistical analysis, and historical lessons-learned.  Every high-volume OEM and supplier uses something like it.  The people behind GPDS and other, similar processes are the reason for today’s automotive landscape of massively complex cars that are safer, more efficient, and more advanced than ever.

As robust and comprehensive as GPDS is, it can be inflexible.  New technology and processes sometimes don’t fit into the framework.  If a body control D&R has never worked with active aerodynamic elements, how will he know what acceptable performance looks like on the GT, or how to test it?  If the STA has never dealt with a carbon fiber monocoque, how can he point out faults in the assembly process?  If the engine calibrator has never tried to achieve the cylinder pressure required to wring 600 horsepower out of 3.5L, how will he know how much fuel to dial in without blowing the head apart?  What about the APQP engineer who depends on Weibull analysis to predict full-life durability, but the sample size needed for a good analysis is about the same as the entire production run?

The Ford GT is unlike anything that Ford has ever built, so the paradigms that work for nearly every Ford product may not work here.  Technology must be developed outside the GPDS framework.  The Ford Research and Advanced Engineering group does just this, using GTDS (Global Technology Development System).  Unlike GPDS, which is focused on execution and quality, the GTDS process attempts to clearly define a problem and systematically identify and explore promising solutions.  The outcome of the GTDS process is a technology that is ready for use in a vehicle, and accompanied by a complete set of requirements and validation methods as well as a list of potential suppliers.  Often a GTDS technology is so complex that transferring knowledge to a production team would be prohibitively time-consuming, so an R&A engineer will accompany the technology through to production.

This is the true skunkworks.  It’s not in a secret basement, its right out in the open, just a short walk from the folks cranking through GPDS documentation.  As for the contention that non-GPDS projects will have a “questionable pedigree in production and quality operating systems”, the people at Ford R&A have a better understanding of the operating environment and system behavior than anybody else in the company and sometimes the entire industry, as well as the manufacturing methods and quality issues associated with them.  The evaluation of technology is obsessively comprehensive, even if it doesn’t follow the GPDS framework.  There is nothing “slap-dash” about it.

The authors accurately point out that the GT is essentially a marketing exercise, not a money maker.  Doing all the development work in-house would take precious resources away from profitable production programs. So the build will be contracted to an outside company like Multimatic.  Dyno testing and calibration will probably be done by a company like Roush.  Chassis development will likely be performed by Ford drivers and engineers, though with a much narrower scope of testing than high-volume vehicles get.  But Ford will own every part of the design and development process.  It just won’t be the same people who put F-150s on the showroom floor.  Instead it will fall to a group whose job it is to bring new technology to life and make it available to a discriminating customer.  There will be no clear path to follow.  And that’s just how they like it.

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52 Comments on “Ur-Turn: In Defense Of The Ford GT...”


  • avatar
    Aquineas

    Fantastic rebuttal, thank you.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    This just confirms my belief (and the belief of a lot of the other commenters) that the other article was a bunch of sour grapes dispensed by somebody who felt left out of such a cool project.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Leave the “Guns and politics” to others, these are the kind of pieces that make TTAC a great site

    Thanks

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    To be honest, I think the last Ur-Turn (‘haters guide’) critizised the GT for being nothing of what the new NSX is being critisized of being. People think the NSX has taen too long and is too ‘civilized’ (even before anyone has driven it), while the GT is being critisized of the exact opposite (again, with no evidence). You just can’t please some people. Thanks for explaining what is obvious to some of us :)

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      I like the nsx better in styling (lambo rear end and all) and believe it will be a superior performance car. However, Ford was smart to do it their way as it was the buzz of the show and probably cost them a while lot less, while the nsx was already old hat by last week.

  • avatar
    CHINO 52405

    “The authors accurately point out that the GT is essentially a marketing exercise, not a money maker.”

    IMO – Ford is building a race car to take on the world stage to showcase the power and capabilities of their EcoBoost engine. As I mentioned in the haters guide – this is how it went down in the 60’s and Ford seems to have opted for a similar path with this iteration. They have already announced a world class race outfit (Ganassi) to enter Le Mans before even actually having a car (for the road).

    The 05-06 iteration was beautiful and sounded mean, but largely was a pig on the track and a bit of an embarrassment to those who judge a supercar on lap times and not spec sheets and street appeal.

    I applaud Ford for going this route and I even forgive the look of that ass-end after reading the “whys” about it. And the twin turbo 6 is such a relevant engine both on and off the track right now.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    I have been loving TTAC this week. Great write up.

    Edit: The only thing the GT won’t see is FPS. But I’m sure Multimatic has a finer tooth comb than any high production system or QOS.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      So are you softening on your “hobbyist POS” stance?

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        I think the prior GT was more or a production car than this will be. After reading all the hub bub about the car, I feel like this is the closest we’ll be to the original GT. It’s a Ford designed race car.

        Call me old fashioned, but I like cars that come out of Ford VO.

        I do like being inflammatory, so all uber billionaires who operate hobby race teams will apply.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I’m glad the GT exists, but it will not effect me in a meaningful way. I think it looks cool, and race cars are cool, but I’ll never be able to own one.

          I’m more excited about the Mustang GT350, and it will probably drain my bank account in a meaningful way. I suspect I’ll have to end up with a regular GT because I won’t pay above MSRP (and GTs are A-plan eligible).

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            I did not know you are a employee – though you may be an ‘ex’ employee? (you keep A plan if you get laid off or get a package)

            I was tempted into a S197 GT, a Focus ST and ended up with a stripped F150 STX. We make several components for the GT350. That machine is a beast.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I married A-plan. Lucky me…

            My connection with FoMoCo mostly stems from my company, that we just closed down in 2014, poured the concrete floors for most Ford assembly plants and facilities since the mid-90s. I wanted to do the Rouge retool as the last job, but based on my costs, it wasn’t going to be worth it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Also, how do you like your STX?

            I am also hearing the siren call from an F150 XLT FX4….

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Cool. That would be a hell of a job. I bet you got in on the KCAP facility that was being built when I was launching there.

            I like the STX. It was a ‘fat’ model year – I helped launch it so it had all the insulation from initial launch that was MCR’d out, soundscreen windshield and PVT robustness improvements combined. No MyFordTouch BS, no carpet, coyote and decent fuel economy. It’s already banged up with dents and scratches, but I use it as a truck :) I can’t believe I lived life without a truck. If you get a truck with cloth seats, I highly recommend the Carhartt canvas seat covers. They can be found for 2/3’s of the cost of employee pricing on Amazon.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It was great while it lasted. Some bigger companies got wise and started copying our bids. During the economic meltdown, we ended up doing more CVS and Walgreens stores than automotive work. Besides Bill Davidson (former owner of Guardian Glass and the Detroit Pistons), who would send a guy out to us on Friday mornings and pay us for what we were going to get done that day, Ford was probably my favorite customer.

            We did work for GM and Chrysler, but I hated working at some of their plants. Pontaic Assembly Center (GM) and Mound Truck (Dodge/RAM) are not places I enjoyed working. Pontiac assembly was especially bad.

            The worst automotive customer we had, BY FAR, was Magna. They nickel and dimed EVERYTHING and then tried to sue us for cracks in one of their plant’s floors. Our concrete exceeded specs, they were just putting machines on the floor that weighed two times of what they called for. The core samples they took were a minimum of 5″ deeper than what was spec’s. Jerks.

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    As an engineer who develops large-scale systems on a daily basis, I agree with this article over the previous.

    If your development framework is tailored to a specific type of product (in this case a high-volume passenger car), then attempting to force your framework to work for something different (a low-volume, pure-performance “halo” car) would create more problems than it solves.

    Just because you have a development framework that works for one thing doesn’t mean it will work for EVERYthing. Believe me, it DOESN’T.

    Ford may also be trying out a new framework altogether, which would make even more sense to me. How better to test a new process than with a low-volume product?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Good insight. I frequently have to tell our staff that not every company (or job) can be run the same way–a custom job shop can’t work like a mass producer, who can’t work like an engineering consulting firm. You have to pick the style, framework, and processes that are best for what you want to do. One-size-fits-all is more often one-size-fits-none.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        We have a standard product that we sell a few at a time, and most have something custom on it. We are owned by a mass producer of a similar product and they admire how fast we can turn around a product. They say they want to be more like us, but then they force their systems on us. It’s frustrating waiting for the change to happen.

      • 0 avatar
        Sky_Render

        @ redav:

        That’s actually a very good example!

        Another hypothetical example would be a company that produces, say, aircraft but also has a small division that develops communications software. It would be beyond erroneous to assume that their development framework for an aircraft would work well–or at all–for communications software.

      • 0 avatar
        InterstateNomad

        Great post

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’d also like to add that those who think this car needs a V8 are living in the past. Welcome to the future.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Yeah, I’ll bet some people said the same thing back in 1984 when all the Mopar “muscle” was powered by little 4cylinder turbos. Turns out that a lot of people want some aggressive personality in their sports/super/muscle cars, especially a ‘Murican one.

      • 0 avatar
        xander18

        Mopar was just ahead of its time!

        -An Unrepentantly Optimistic Mopar fan

        • 0 avatar
          Fred

          They weren’t bad little cars, considering the times. Too many folks just didn’t like having the Shelby name on them.

          • 0 avatar
            xander18

            MotorWeek’s Youtube channel has classic reviews and they do the Shelby Charger. Their take was amusing; they thought the car was an amazing deal and a lot of bang for the buck. They praised the styling and thought it would do well. Oh how unkind history has been.

    • 0 avatar
      CHINO 52405

      This is an extremely relevant engine and program in my opinion. I’d love to see a single turbo version entered into F1 as well. Kind of a shame that we have these fantastic V6’s here and Haas will be running Ferrari engines.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Well, the Ecoboost V6 is 3.5 liters, and Formula 1 is 1.5 liters. A F1 engine has to fit within a certain box volume as well.

        You are going to persuade the FIA to include this Ford engine on what basis, exactly?

        Perhaps a read of the relevant regulations might help.

        Of course, if you have a spare $3 billion to slip Bernie Ecclestone, he’ll take care of the FIA for you, and maybe even change his haircut.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Because naming a new supercar after an old 1970’s racer isn’t “living in the past”, right?

      I think its fair to expect a souped up Mustang engine or something given the the GT name.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        What is important is if the product is true to the spirit of the original not the cylinder count. Utilizing the latest technology is what made the original GT a winner so why continue with that philosophy?

    • 0 avatar

      So I’m not the only one who wants a 3.5B S550 Mustang?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Dude. I have been drooling over the idea of a 3.5EB Mustang for a couple years. Especially now with the next gen 3.5L that will have over 400 HP and probably damn near 500 lb.ft or torque.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    So the new GT will be kinda a small-production Halo car for Ford?

    Alright, I could go with that. That would explain the price too, I just hope 150 of them aren’t wrecked within its first week.

    I will give credit to Ford for not shoe-horning a FusionFocus front end on the new GT, that alone makes the GT a little more desirable vs the way too corporate NSX.

    Hopefully they won’t go GMs route with the C7 Corvette, make something different then let the styling gradually sin into your mundane cars, thus saturating your line up.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Is this about the Camaro tail lights again or is this about the Bolt/Volt that doesn’t look at all like the Vette despite what the press says?

      Also, the Vette can be had for 1/4 what the GT costs… with a V8

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I made that point on the price in the other GT article, for the price of a GT you could buy quite a lot of modern supercars, you can get a fully-loaded C7 and an SRT Viper with cash to spare.

        After that I was told about our irrational world, and how the GT “looks more like a road-going race car vs a Corvette”, if racys your thing you can buy two Porsche 911 GT3s with cash to spare.

        Heck, for $300k I could grab an R8, a GT3 911, and still have enough left to grab a used NSX. Three road cars with quite a bit of “racing cred”.

        • 0 avatar
          Fred

          @Ryoku75, but you are assuming people buy these cars based on logical thinking. This is purely a subjective purchase, at least it would be for me.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’ve never heard anyone call the Corvette a “logical” purchase, let alone a 911 or any supercar for that matter.

            If the SRT Viper can’t sell well despite the reasonable price I doubt the GT stands a chance.

  • avatar
    FFemp

    As a current Ford Motor employee, as is the writer of this piece , his assertions are 100% factual correct. The engineers whom work on these special type of projects are extreme well versed in the Ford processes, and are hand picked to work on such a project. Moreover, as they pointed out, for every process within Ford there are acceptable ‘exception processes’ that with the correct level of management blessing, are correct to follow – and these engineers and designers whom were picked to work on this project know this.

    I agree with some posters that the original Ur-Turn GT hater article sounded very much like someone was not invited to play, or worse (gasp – horrors!) had some of their project budget diverted to this project…either way, the process described in order to get this project to where it is today is acceptable within Ford -AS long as someone(s) with enough management clout on the marketing and engineering sides approve.

    And, contrary to what the hater original article said, the GT of 2003 era was not built at Wixom assembly….would have been a neat trick if it was, as that plant was building the Panther based Town car at that time. Rather, it was assembled at a separate small plant run by Rosch located on the same parcel of land as the Wixom plant – two different things entirely. Moreover, that car came into being in much the same way as this 2015 version….most of the major components (except the engine) design, development, and manufacturing was also done by a handful of suppliers.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You’re absolutely correct that the 2005 GT was not built on the same line or even close to the same process as the Town Car and Lincoln LS that were built in the Wixom facility at the time. I had the opportunity to see the assembly operations for the GT, and they were put together on their own mobile carriages in a separate area.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I miss Wixom. It was hard to see the size and scope of the plant based on how it sat next to the freeway. Now that it’s gone, everyone can see how big of a piece of property it is. The super sized RV dealership that is there now is dwarfed by the ghost that is Wixom Assembly. In my head, I’ll always see the lit up giant blue oval and Panther under a spot light when I drive by.

  • avatar
    xander18

    Thank you for this rebuttal. The previous article essentially boiled down to: this car wasn’t designed the way the rest of of Ford’s cars are designed so it won’t be reliable/good. In my opinion that’s antiquated to the point of downright erroneous. There was little information about what did happen with the development of the car, only information about what didn’t happen.

    For almost the entire history of the auto industry companies have been creating special projects to test new management as much as new technology. The two recent examples of this that stand out are the entire Saturn subdivision and the Dodge Viper project, both of which were arguably more about testing out new corporate structure and philosophy than they were about the final products.

    There have, of course, been differing amounts of success with this method through history. But to say that it’s inherently bad is incorrect. Further, with companies attempting to break out of possible detrimental habits and trends I think Ford should be applauded for continuing to buck convention and trying new things.

  • avatar
    James2

    Nice. I think I wrote something similar (though of course not nearly as detailed or as knowledgeable) in the Hater thread.

    One would think *everyone* inside the Ford Motor Company would want the new GT to be a Ferrari-killer, whether or not they were involved.

    Imagine if Ford hadn’t left F1 and that it rotated engineers through that program to learn how much fuel pressure a turbo 1.6 V6 required or how to, um, deceive the FIA with moveable aerodynamic elements… and applied that knowledge to the GT.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    Thank you for this rebuttal.

    The prior article was weak on content actually relevant to a limited production skunkworks supercar like the new GT.

    Sour grapes and what not.

  • avatar
    autojim

    Yes, this, exactly. Thank you for giving a “current insider” perspective to what I (and others) had pointed out in the comment stream for the other article.

    This program is an exception, but there are rules in place for handling such exceptions.

    Thanks again!

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