Freeman Thomas

If there’s one thing that can save Ford Motor Co., it is another hit, says Freeman Thomas, Ford’s director of strategic design. Today, Thomas and his team at Ford’s advanced design studio in Irvine, Calif., are trying to do it again. Good thing Thomas knows a thing or two about designing hits.

Before defecting to the Dearborn automaker a couple of years ago, Thomas was the design guru at Chrysler Group. There, he designed the concept that became the Chrysler 300. Thomas also played a key role in designing the concepts that led to the Volkswagen New Beetle and Audi TT. Thomas calls design the great differentiator — the thing we auto purchasers buy when they are shopping for a car that says “me.” But great design is unworkable without great risk. “The auto industry is a dinosaur,” Thomas says.

Like many attendees, Mulally loved Ford’s stunning Interceptor concept. Even though it will not be produced, the Interceptor serves as a platform for several design cues that Thomas says will be incorporated into future Ford products.

So, does Thomas think he has another game-changing hit in his studio today? “I definitely do,” he says. “But I can’t tell you what it is.”