By Mark Kleis
Wednesday, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:35 pm
 
With dire times forcing cuts across the industry, Ford Motor Company took a particularly big step to consolidate its once expansive California operations: It sold its former Premier Automotive Group facility in Irvine to Taco Bell.

While this might induce some snickers and chortles, know that Ford reported a $2.3 billion gain last quarter and that it leased a small section of the building back from Taco Bell to maintain its design studio operations. With Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover out of Ford's portfolio - and Volvo on the selling block - Ford didn't have much need for the facility, which was ironically Ford's first ever building to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification from the United States Green Building Council.

Why the history lesson? Ford opened its doors for the first time to the media and a select portion of the local public to tour the Ford Design Studio to see what exactly Ford was up to in Southern California. Ford has been in Orange County's backyard for over a decade and had done very little to let that be known, so we're glad the automaker reached out to the local community.

As a Ford Fiesta Agent, I was granted special permission to attend the event to see what exactly Ford had in the works. We were first given a special presentation in which Ford outlined some key goals and targets for the company, both near and long term. A few figures stuck out as rather impressive to me: By 2012, Ford plans to replace or refresh 70 to 90 percent, by volume, of the products offered in its key North American, European, Asian Pacific, and African markets, and by just 2014 Ford plans to replace up to 160 percent of its lineup in those regions. This started earlier this year with the heavily revised 2010 Mustang, Fusion and Milan.

Additionally, Ford has put itself on pace to reduce its costs by $14 to $15 billion compared to 2005, largely due to increased efficiency in operations and productions, including reducing new vehicle engineering costs by 60 percent and new facility and tooling costs by 40 percent.

For those of you following the Fiesta Movement, you know that I have a monthly "mission," and this month was themed Style and Design - an easy task given I've been putting the miles on my Fiesta. I hope you enjoy the video that outlines my trip to Ford's design studio and highlights the Ford Fiesta and the custom logos and gear I made to go along with it.

To find more updates beyond Mark's first, second and third installments, check out his Web site: MarkKleis.com

Words and photos by Mark Kleis.