It's hard to think back now, but the same man overseeing the design of the 2013 Ford Fusion also presided over a rather lackluster period in Ford design, highlighted by vehicles like the Five Hundred and Freestyle. With the redesigned Fusion receiving high praise, J Mays tells Automotive News that he feels vindicated from criticisms suggesting he's not a daring enough designer.
When Mays took over as lead of design in 1997, he admits to having quite an ego ("My head would barely fit through the door some days. I've long since gotten over myself") and the workload to match. With the Blue Oval's portfolio full of premium brands like Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo at that point, along with the bread-and-butter Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, Mays certainly had quite the challenge.

It was in the mid-2000s that Mays took over just the premium brands, and took on the new title of Chief Creative Officer. At the time, Mays endured some criticism for looking backwards to retro styling, rather than setting a new standard for American car design – criticism that Mays says he is free from with the all-new Fusion.

It's also significant to point out the big names in car design came through the doors of Ford's design house under Mays. Names like Ian Callum (now of Jaguar), and Henrik Fisker, who was then at Aston Martin but has now gone on to start his own carmaker.

Mays, who spent time at BMW, Audi and Volkswagen told AN that American carmakers don't have to imitate Europe's luxury automakers to provide premium products (perhaps a bit ironic considering that even cheerleaders of the sedan admit the new Fusion has an awful lot of Aston Martin design language up front). While the Fusion has been well–received, Mays still has his hands full trying to maintain the "One Ford" global design language, matching that up with truck design, and finding an identity for Lincoln. All we can say is, it ain't easy being J Mays.


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  • 62 Comments
      ftldudesam
      • 2 Years Ago
      J Mays taking credit for the new Fusion? Hmmm that's quite a stretch given that it's really a Ford of Europe design and an evolution of Martin Smith's & Stefan Lamm's kinetic design which was in place when J Mays was presiding proudly over boring Ford 500s. I don't know why this guy hasn't been let go by now...he must have some really good godfathers inside the Ford organization
      Jon Acton
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really can't understand how this guy can tke credit for the design when he probably never put pen to paper or stylus to screen for that matter. He may have opened the door and championed it but at his level of managment I'm willing to bet he was not there making daily decisions on the styling. Give credit where credit is due. I happen to like the new Fusion and would be proud to own one.
      brian
      • 2 Years Ago
      While it's probably good that Ford isn't looking back to retro-design, although it's been quite successful for Mustang. Meanwhile, ignoring history completely is among the worst things to have befallen Lincoln - The easiest thing to get Lincoln back on it's feet would be to look back at the iconic designs that translate well to current automotive design. Going back to 1941 for a split-grille that lasted only a couple years and doesn't translate to current automotive design isn't the way, particularly when 1961-97 fascias are much less challenging to the eye and could be so easily adapted to current lighting technology.
        Jonathan Ippolito
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brian
        They would also have to completely need to change the platforms and drivetrains to make Lincoln a sales Success and able to compete with their competitors . But your right that Lincoln has completely forgotten it's heritige . Sad Ford considers the Fusion a huge achievement but throws Lincoln by the wayside especially since they have the perfect platforms for the brand to base it's cars on in Australia and also the Mustang platform would also be perfect .
        Jonathan Ippolito
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brian
        They would also have to completely need to change the platforms and drivetrains to make Lincoln a sales Success and able to compete with their competitors . But your right that Lincoln has completely forgotten it's heritige . Sad Ford considers the Fusion a huge achievement but throws Lincoln by the wayside especially since they have the perfect platforms for the brand to base it's cars on in Australia and also the Mustang platform would also be perfect .
      me
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anyone who designed the the 500 should have lost their job...
        avanti
        • 2 Years Ago
        @me
        Do you mean someone actually designed the 500?
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Fusion shows that mass market family sedans do not have to be bland or dull.
      merlot066
      • 2 Years Ago
      First of all, the grille on the new Fusion and the Aston corporate face are not that similar. The fact that the Fusion is a striking car and the grille is a similar geometric shape may make you think of an Aston Martin at first but they're really not all that similar. http://i50.tinypic.com/33e29et.jpg The new grille on the Fusion and Focus electric are pretty clearly evolutions of Ford's 3-bar chrome grille design. If you look at the ugly grille on the Fiesta sedan then look at this you can see where it got its roots, they stretched it and changed the bars a bit but it's pretty much the same design. Also, to quote one of my favorite shows, "Did Simon not mingle with Garfunkel?". Ford did in fact own Aston Martin and they took a huge operating loss on them as they saved them from bankruptcy and gave them an all-new lineup of cars. Ford took almost every piece of safety-tech from Volvo when they owned them and they heavily borrowed from Land Rover for the terrain managment system on the new Explorer. It comes with the territory. I'm sure nobody would complain if Ford started using the Mercury front end on Fords, and nobody has a problem with the fact that the new GMC Acadia uses parts from its old Saturn twin. So to conclude, the grille doesn't look that similar, if it did, Aston Martin would be pissed off, and even if they were pissed off, there's nothing they can do about it because Ford does have certian rights even after they've sold their controling share (just like Land Rover seemed ticked about terrain management but just issued a press release casually point out where Ford got the tech from). I wouldn't guarantee that the Fusion will come in first in every single comparison and steal the #1 sales crown from Toyota this year, but the new Fusion seems to be a well-rounded hit in every area just like the new Escape is and the Automotive press seems to love it.
        GRR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @merlot066
        Its not about the design being identical, its about the concept, even between Aston Martin's they are not identical, different models since the 60s carrie this theme and non is identical, yet its all about a concept and a theme which Aston Martin has for generations and Ford obviously copied. There are more differences between some of Aston Martin's own models then there are between this Ford and the DBS or DB9
      Walt
      • 2 Years Ago
      Look, get over the grill. First, go to Honda's web site - http://automobiles.honda.com/ Now, count the models that have "borrowed' Ford's 3 bar grill. Here, I'll do it for you - Crosstour CR-V CR-Z Odyssey Pilot Ridgeline That's six Honda's wearing a Ford grill! Toyota has done the same thing with certain models. I don't recall any outrage over that plagiarism, so I your "concern" over the Fusion grill just comes off as a phoney attempt to hack on a brilliant design in order to protect Asian brands.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Walt
        [blocked]
      GRR
      • 2 Years Ago
      Everybody needs to see this image I found, it is beyond a doubt that this is a vulgar copy, and look at the lines that come down from the hood and are marked on the grill same as in the Aston Martin http://i50.tinypic.com/hv4515.jpg the truth is the truth, its so evident its just ridiculous. posers are tacky
        luigi.tony
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GRR
        Is that an actual press release on the new Fusion. The Hood fitment is horrible.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GRR
        [blocked]
        GRR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GRR
        Who ever like this car is a poser, no doubt about that, look at the image! its vulgar. This is exactly the same thing that happened with the chinese car and was criticized because their designs were copies of other cars and brand themes. How cheap is that? Ford looks like chinese cars The surprising thing is all the people from USA voting thumbs down on that image when its clear as can be.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GRR
        [blocked]
        GRR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GRR
        LOL Look at the new VW Golf, looks like J Mays and Ford are starting a new trend with the Fusion's design/copy theme. (thank god its a joke) http://i49.tinypic.com/2j2f7z5.jpg
      marv.shocker
      • 2 Years Ago
      He's NOT a daring enough designer. He smacked an Aston face on the front of that ugly bastard and called it good. Nice job!
      Jesus!
      • 2 Years Ago
      He is a terrible designer in my opinion. And one Ford will not work. Americans never asked for a Euro midsizer, they just asked for an up to date one. The Escape may be selling well in the beginning but I guarantee it will never sell like the old one. Ford US has become nothing more than a lineup of Euro vehicles. No thanks says this American, my next vehicle will be a Jeep, especially since Ford has no clue how to ackage vehicles and give customers what they want.
      MAX
      • 2 Years Ago
      Best looking midsize by far, makes Japanese cars look cheap and old.
        Lachmund
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MAX
        the new mazda 6 laughs at you
        m
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MAX
        sorry but haven't you seen the new Mazda 6 soon to be marketed ?? Most exciting thing !! since the Nissan newly release Altima... That Mazda 6 will be the one to watch for ! That one is totally sexy!
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @m
          agree on the 6, but the Altima....? you DEFINITELY LOST ME THERE
        marv.shocker
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MAX
        Wait till you see the new Avalon. With so many features at the price, it's going to kick the crap out of everything. Although I do have to agree the Mazda 6 is nice looking, it's not enough to save Mazda.
          Making11s
          • 2 Years Ago
          @marv.shocker
          Why bring up the Avalon? The two don't compete. Regardless, the new Avalon is out, and man, that's one big Camry.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @marv.shocker
          um, Avalon competes in a different class...but yes, nice effort FINALLY from Toyota.....
      Ben Lee
      • 2 Years Ago
      Master of the slab side! J once said something like he knows what you want more than you do... What a total blowhard! this guy has no imagination (ie. Shelby concept)
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