Richard Parry-Jones made the most famous Fords drive well.
If you're not a hardcore car nerd, you may have never heard about Ford's Richard Parry-Jones. But if you've owned a Ford in the last 30 years, you been touched by one of his products. Just a few weeks after the Ford Mondeo was cancelled, Parry-Jones' first big hit, the man was killed in a tragic tractor accident at 69 years old.
"Richard Parry-Jones was a rare talent who left an indelible mark on Ford and the industry. As an engineer, he was a virtuoso with an uncanny feel for creating cars that were dynamic and incredibly fun to drive," said Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company. "I can tell you that going on a test drive with him was not for the faint of heart. His passion for great cars and love of motoring inspired legions of engineers and enthusiasts in Europe and around the world. Richard will be deeply missed, and our heart goes out to his family and loved ones."
Parry-Jones joined Ford product development in 1969 as an undergraduate trainee, after graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Salford University, Manchester in 1973. He was appointed Manager of Small Car Programs in 1982 and was named Executive Engineer of Ford's Technological Research in Europe in 1985, before adding responsibility for Vehicle Concepts a year later. He eventually made his way to be Group Vice-President of Global Product Development, Chief Technical Officer, and Head of Global R&D Operations before retiring in 2007.
His first hit was the Mondeo sedan in 1992; we called it the Contour here in the US. He also pioneered the "50-meter" test, saying engineers could learn more going slow for 50 meters than topping a car out on a test track.
But Parry-Jones changed his outlook after that, deciding that the company could do better with higher quality cars at higher prices. That led to the fourth-generation Fiesta, the UK's Puma coupe, and the Escort-replacing Ford Focus. He was also in charge of engineering for Ford's Premier Auto Group including Jaguar Land Rover (who continues to recover), Volvo, Mazda, Lincoln and Aston Martin.
In addition to all of that, he also created a system of metrics with graphs that would be recorded by sensors that fed into a digital model of what a Ford should feel like. After retirement, he served on several governmental boards on auto, energy and industrial policy.
Tributes have poured in since his death on Saturday.
Designer Ian Callum said that "he had a very special genius in him that cut through the problem to the solution. He will be missed. RIP Richard."
Henrik Fisker noted: "He was a true car enthusiast and a real giver, sharing his immense knowledge."
"Richard was not only a valuable member of the Aston Martin Board but also a friend," said Aston's executive chairman Lawrence Stroll. "This is a terrible loss to the Board, the business and the industry for which Richard has been such an influential figure. Our thoughts are with Richard's family through this difficult time."