Retiring designer J Mays talks about Mustang and Ford image

After a 33-year career – 16 of them at Ford – J Mays, the company’s chief designer retires at the end of the year and rides off with the design of the next-generation Mustang as one of his final acts.

Mays, 59, joined Ford in 1997 with a portfolio that included the Audi TT and the concept for the revived “New Beetle” while he worked at Volkswagen. The native of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, worked at his family’s auto parts store when he was young and graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, in 1980.

At Ford, the man in the trademark black turtleneck spent years leading design and added the title of chief creative officer in 2005. He also played consultant with Disney/Pixar for the movie “Cars.”

Mays oversaw the design team that created on the current Fusion that some critics have likened to an Aston Martin. The Fusion “ranks up there as the most satisfying car to date I’ve done at Ford,” Mays said a year ago.

Talking about the 2015 Mustang, he said it was a joy to work on a car like this, as people were lining up at his office door ready to work on the Mustang. They started doing the planning back in 2009 and the sketches were coming across his desk three minutes after he kicked the program off.

“We wanted to design a Mustang first and foremost and offer that to the world. I’ve lived overseas long enough to know people who live in Europe and Asia love it because of its Americanism. No watering down. We had to bring the faithful along. We couldn’t possibly lose them. And we wanted to attract a new audience as well. I think we struck the right balance with this car,” he said.