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Ford snares Aussie Wolff as Lincoln design chief

Howlin’ Wolff: After a decade working his way up the global design ladder at GM, Max Wolff will now move to Ford as the new design director for Lincoln.

Aussie designer to reshape Ford’s Lincoln Luxury brand, including all-new small car

Ford logo2 Dec 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

AUSTRALIAN designer Max Wolff has left General Motors to work for arch-rival Ford in the United States, with the Blue Oval brand naming the Cadillac exterior design chief as its incoming design director for the Lincoln luxury brand.

A protégé of former Holden design director Mike Simcoe, Mr Wolff, 38, who has followed Mr Simcoe throughout the GM world – from Australia to South Korea and on to the US – has elected to leave The General just a fortnight after Mr Simcoe announced that he was returning to Australia as executive director of design for GM’s international operations division.

Reporting to Ford Motor Co’s executive director of design for The Americas, Moray Callum, Mr Wolff will play a key role in Ford’s plan to push Lincoln outside North America and into Asia-Pacific markets, possibly including Australia, with a range of new vehicles – large and small.

The latter has now been confirmed to include Lincoln’s first-ever small (C-segment) vehicle, while the expansion plans outside the US – including a possible tilt Down Under – was detailed to journalists, including GoAuto, by Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally at the Paris motor show in October.

 center imageFrom top: Daewoo T2X, Chevrolet Trax, Holden Cruze and Holden Barina Spark

Mr Mulally said he expected a completely new range of Lincoln luxury models to go global within about five years, expanding beyond – and improving upon – the current line-up which includes the mid-sized MKZ (including a just-released hybrid), the larger MKS and Town Car sedans, and the MKX, MKT and Navigator SUVs.

For Mr Wolff, the Monash University graduate who joined Holden in 1998 has applied his skills to a range of vehicles over the past 12 years, including the 2002 Holden SSX sports hatch concept – Holden’s first attempt at an all-wheel-drive performance road car – the 2002 HRT 427 super-coupe from Holden Special Vehicles, the 2004 Elfin Clubman MS8 track racer and the 2004 Holden Torana TT36 concept.

Having moved to GM Daewoo’s design studio in Incheon, South Korea, in May 2004 as deputy director of advanced design (under Simcoe), Mr Wolff’s influence is reflected in models such as the 2005 Daewoo T2X and 2007 Chevrolet Trax concepts, the current Chevrolet/Holden Cruze sedan, Captiva SUV, the recently released Barina Spark and the forthcoming Barina/Aveo.

As exterior design director for Cadillac based in Warren, Michigan, since 2007 – a role which again placed him under Mr Simcoe, who by then was GM’s executive director of North American exterior design and global architecture strategy – Mr Wolff has shaped the acclaimed CTS coupe, CTS-V high-performance variants and the CTS sport wagon, among other models.

Just as Mr Simcoe is taking on his new role back with GM in Melbourne at the beginning of next year, Mr Wolff is reporting for duty with Ford in Dearborn on January 3.

Ford’s group vice-president of global product development, Derrick Kuzak, said: “Hiring a Lincoln design director with global experience was a given. Max Wolff brings a fresh perspective that will challenge us internally and take Lincoln to new levels of prestige.”

Ford Motor Co group vice-president of design and chief creative officer, J Mays, added: “Max’s drive, talent and knowledge of automotive design within the premium segment of the market make him a great addition to the global design team.

“He is a recognised design leader and has a successful track record in the development of production and concept vehicles, including the Holden SSX show car.”

In a statement, Ford confirmed Mr Wolff “will help the Lincoln team expand and enhance its brand line-up, which will include seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years and its first-ever C-segment vehicle”.

The company described Lincoln’s hallmarks as “refined, modern design, the most fuel-efficient premium powertrains and industry-leading technology that create a unique driver experience both in the cabin and on the road”.

For his part, Mr Wolff said: “Working with a young, motivated and internationally experienced team with the opportunity of taking a brand to the next level is very exciting, as is the opportunity to work with J Mays and Moray Callum.”

This is the first high-profile move of a GM designer to Ford since Opel chief designer Martin Smith moved to the Blue Oval in 2004 – a move that created the opportunity for Mike Simcoe to move to the US, where he succeeded Bryan Nesbitt (who filled Mr Smith’s slot in Europe).

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