Ford's Parry-Jones Retires; GM Loses Ballew

By Michelle Krebs October 19, 2007

Richardparryjones7_facing_right_160 Two high-profile industry faces are moving on. Paul_ballew_119

Ford reported that engineer extraordinaire Richard Parry-Jones is retiring at year's end. General Motors announced that its oft-quoted top analyst Paul Ballew was moving on to a new job in the insurance business.

Parry-Jones: The 50-Meter Test

Parry-Jones was known as the company vehicle dynamics guru. He is credited with the dramatic improvement in Ford products, especially in Europe and, in particular, on the Ford Focus. He led the development of the European 1981 Escort and 1983 Sierra. Also under his leadership, Ford in Europe developed the Focus, Ka, Fiesta, Puma, Mondeo, Cougar and Galaxy.

Parry-Jones was famous inside Ford for his demanding training of young engineeers -- and for his 50-meter test. Instead of zooming around a racetrack at top speeds –- which he does extremely well –- Parry-Jones insisted that engineers creep at low speeds for 50 meters, listening and feeling to the nuances of the vehicle. In a demonstration of his test, Parry-Jones told AutoObserver that an engineer could learn more from the 50-meter test than laps at the limits around the track. That didn’t stop him, however, from screaming around racetracks and windy mountain roads, which he was equally well-known for, often scaring the daylights out of his passengers.

In recent years, Parry-Jones was unfortunately vastly under-utilized within the Ford global organization. He had been an integral part of former CEO Jacques Nasser’s product development team. After Nasser’s departure, Parry-Jones was transferred back to Europe, where his title was chief technical officer.

Born in Wales and a Ford employee for more than 30 years, Parry-Jones, 56, departs Ford on December 31. His duties will be divided between Gerhard Schmidt, who heads Ford’s research and advanced engineering activities, and Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s head of global product development.

Ballew: A Numbers Guy

Any analyst or reporter who has ever sat in on GM’s monthly sales call or readers of media business pages know who Paul Ballew is.

While his job may not have been as sexy as Parry-Jones’ at Ford, Ballew’s role at GM was just as important. Formerly a partner, senior director and economist for J. D. Power and Associates, where AutoObserver first met him, Ballew was assigned the task of forecasting economic and industry trends, helping to develop GM’s strategy and then delivering the news –- good or bad -– of GM’s performance. He did so with integrity, class and seeming unflappability when confronted with the tough questions.

Ballew is taking a job with Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio.

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