When Derrick Kuzak was leading development of the 2000 Ford Focus, Jost Capito was charged with transforming the compact hatch into Europe’s hot Focus RS. Now that Kuzak is responsible for all Ford products globally, he’s called Capito up to oversee performance vehicles for all markets as the director of global performance vehicles and motorsport business.
Prior to joining Ford, Capito wrote himself an impressive resume in motorsports. He started with successful stints in motorcross and endurance motorocycle racing, but a 1985 win in the truck class of the Paris-Dakar Rally was the defining victory. In 1999, he joined the Sauber Formula One team as chief operating officer after serving with BMW and Porsche motorsports programs. He hired into Ford’s Cologne-based Team RS in 2001.
Now, Capito will align America’s SVT, Europe’s Team RS, and Australia’s FPV while establishing performance vehicles that can be sold on multiple continents. With products like the new Fiesta and Focus set to bow soon, we’re eager to see what tuned variants Ford will come up with.
In Europe you use the ST and RS monikers for performance vehicles, while it’s SVT here in America. What badge will these new performance vehicles wear?
We’re not finished with the nomenclature yet. I think we have two different things. We have regional performance vehicles and we have global performance vehicles. We are fully agreed on global performance vehicles, you need one nomenclature. We see that the RS already has got quite the following in the U.S., so there would be nothing wrong in calling it RS globally. Each car should have only one nomenclature [globally], but I don’t see RS in Europe going away, and I don’t see SVT in the U.S. going away.
Does the new global approach to performance vehicles mean we Americans are more likely to see a next-generation Ford Focus RS?
When you see the global vehicle lines, they offer the opportunity of global performance vehicles. The two generations of Focus we’ve had so far [internationally] were great bases for performance vehicles. The new Focus is the same, so there’s no reason if there’s one in Europe, it wouldn’t be here.
Could you offer two distinct performance trims in the U.S. like you do in the Europe?
I think the Mustang has that. I’d say that the GT is the first level of performance and the GT500 is the second level.
How about with a Focus?
I wouldn’t see a reason why not. I think there is room when you see there is a market. I am convinced this segment is growing. The VW GTI is the main competitor to the ST, and there’s the Mazdaspeed 3. The entry performance level of those kind of cars, they are absolutely everyday capable. They have no restrictions compared to a base vehicle, just adding the performance, the sportiness, the sound.
Could you make the case to sell a Fiesta RS and Focus RS at the same time?
To sell one at a time is never an issue. To do an RS, a lot of things have to come together. The industry has to be right, we have to have the right base vehicles, we have to have the right resources, we have to have the right economic clime that you can sell the vehicles. In Europe, we had the ST Fiesta and Focus in parallel, but that is entry-level performance and I think that’s a no-brainer and it’s a very easy answer.
With the RS, it’s an icon, and I’m convinced you shouldn’t just flush the market with RSes. The lesson we learned in Europe is that we shouldn’t do as many cars as we can sell. Our customers, they are really loyal RS customers and they need the car for everyday driving. It’s not their second car, it’s not their third car, and they always want to have the new RS. They can only afford that if they can sell their old RS for a good price. If you keep the RS limited, you keep the used price up so that the guys who are our traditional customers can fulfill their dream and get the new RS. That keeps the whole hype about RS going.
How strongly are your products tied to what’s available in the Ford parts bin?
If you can take an engine that’s already in the platform, it’s much easier, much more cost efficient. But our approach is not starting with, “What engine do we have?” Our approach is, “What should the car be?” and then we know the options and we look in the parts bin. If we have an engine in the platform and delivers what we define the car should deliver, then it’s fine. If there is no engine in the platform that delivers, then we have to look for something else.