In November 2010, we started a new series called Focus on the Customer that takes you inside Ford and introduces you to some of the people behind the engineering and testing of the all-new 2012 Ford Focus. This week, Ford ride and drive engineer, Dr. Norbert Kessing talks about the challenge, technology and testing that were used to create the driving dynamics for the model.
Join Dr. Kessing here for the live chat at 11:00 a.m. EST (5:00 p.m CET) on Friday, December 3, 2010.
Dr. Kessing has a lot more than seat-of-the-pants knowledge about the dynamic properties of automobiles, and his knowledge has been a critical advantage for Ford in the development of the next-generation Focus.
“More and more, we are turning vehicle dynamics into an objective, scientific process,” says Dr. Kessing. “It used to be very subjective, but more and more we are finding ways to measure and replicate the forces and complex influences on a vehicle’s dynamic character. That means we can have a much deeper understanding of what a vehicle is doing dynamically and why.”
Driving dynamics has been a key DNA element for the Ford Focus since it was originally introduced in 1998. Since that time, Ford has honed its science, a process that involves sophisticated computer-aided engineering tools, testing engineers working in laboratories at Ford’s European product development facility in Merkenich, Germany, and test drivers at its Lommel (Belgium) Proving Ground.
“We still use test drivers and skilled tuners are crucial,” Dr. Kessing said. “As much as we have been able to study scientifically, there are still aspects of dynamics that require subjective testing by expert drivers. But our approach helps give these drivers better chassis setups to evaluate, and close collaboration among all the disciplines allows a test driver to understand what he just felt while driving on the proving ground. This knowledge loop allows us to improve continuously.”
Dr. Kessing remembers having his bedroom plastered with car posters when he was 15 years old. He got his first car, a VW Scirocco, at 19, which was an important milestone. At university, he got exposed to test driving and started working on projects for Ford.
On the track, he is clearly the master of more than just theory. He developed his skills as a test driver over more than a decade of work.
The first Focus on the Customer post featured Jorge Rivas who talked about the wind tunnel testing of the new Focus for minimized wind noise. You can click here to view the video and read the chat.
Grant Weber chatted about the technology and testing that he uses to help the all-new Focus deliver up to a projected 40 highway miles per gallon. Click here to view the video and read the chat.
And most recently, Jeff Fessenden and Gurjeet Bains discussed the tests that they put the 2012 Ford Focus through to reduce unwanted sounds. You can click here to view the video and read the chat.