Focus on the Customer: A Live Chat with the 2012 Ford Focus Ride and Handling Engineer

By Ford Social Member

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.
Live Chat with Norbert Kessing, 2012 Ford Focus Vehicle Dynamics Manager

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.
Sean Evans 02/20/2011
Untill it is AWD then i will stick with my Japanese car. There are plenty of us tuners out there ready to jump to Ford if they ever made a good awd car!
steve saunders 12/14/2010
this looks cool
Mark Nichols 12/10/2010
Looks great! Good job. It is however time to lobby the oil companies that wish to only sell gasoline to US car customers..and bring over the diesels! Imagine the torque and high MPG in these awesome new Fords here. Driving pleasure. Cmon Ford..If VW does it..We sure can. I believe!!
Thomas C 12/03/2010
"All wheel drive certainly brings advantages, but comes at a high cost."

A high cost, ok, doesn't need to be standard but why we don't have all wheel drive as an option??????

Ford should selling all-wheel drive as an option for the Focus and Fiesta if they are willing to listen to what people want.
Sally Jones 12/03/2010
Will the new Focus have a station wagon model? I have a 2001 Ford Focus LX wagon and I love it. It is small, easy to maneuver, fuel efficient and has a large load capacity. Us city people don't need large gas guzzling SUVs that are hard to park. Please bring back my Focus wagon, I need a new one. I have owned Fords all my driving life of 40 years. I don't want to have to go to another brand next time I buy because Ford does not have a wagon option. Europeans have wagons, why don't we have them!
Roger Ratekin 12/03/2010
It looks Great.
Bob D 12/03/2010
I recently drove a Ford Fiesta with the PowerShift transmission, which felt a bit odd - leaving me longing for that "coasting" feeling like a manual transmission in neutral. Will the new Focus be available without this feature?
Paul 12/03/2010
• EPAS is a sophisticated electric speed-sensitive assist for the rack-and-pinion steering system
– Offers light, responsive steering around town and for parking
– At higher speeds, EPAS delivers less steering assist for more confident control
• EPAS replaces the hydraulic gear system that pulled power (and efficiency) from the engine via a belt
• Helps improve fuel economy and eliminate hydraulic noises common with hydraulic systems
Mitch Mattice 12/02/2010
Dr. Kessing, In regards to the Electric Power Assist Steering, other than fuel economy benefits, how is it any better than conventional power steering? My wifes 2011 Fiesta feels a little "numb" at times. Will this the be the same for the new Focus I just ordered?