INTERVIEW Hermann Salenbauch, Ford Performance
Hermann Salenbauch has spent a collective nine years working for Ford Performance, making him the longest-serving member of the go-faster team. He was SVT director from 2007 to 2015 and last year returned as global director of Ford Performance vehicle programs—while also overseeing the Mustang, Edge, and Fusion. Although not as well known as predecessor Dave Pericak, Salenbauch is one to watch as Ford sorts out its performance future in a world of SUVS and electrification.
Electrification is a performance enabler. For a performance team it’s a big thing. It’s a new world.ó
Do you have a vision to change the direction
of Ford Performance? Always. We definitely have to make performance of the future capable. We can’t think of electrification as a threat. It’s also a huge opportunity. In 20 years the world will look very different. Companies like Porsche now have performance EVS. Is this the direction? It’s awesome. Electrification is a performance enabler. Combustion engines don’t have much torque at 0 rpm, and you need to crank them up. Electric motors have instant torque, a lot of power. For a performance team it’s a big thing to get their head around because they know about stabilizer bars, brakes, superchargers, turbos. It’s a new world for them.
What about electrifying the turbos to get
that instant torque? We look at that. It is definitely a way you can run that turbo, but I have not yet seen the fuel economy benefits.
Would having Raptor versions of both the F-150 and Ranger in North America hurt each other or enhance overall truck performance
status? It’s an opportunity. It’s not the most pressing thing. It took many years to bring Ranger back because Ranger is lower volume. It would be more expensive for the same profit as an F-150. I’m happy it’s back. I worked on Ranger Raptors for many years. After the F-150, we always thought about it. It took until now to bring it.
Will that mentality keep you from offering
Ranger Raptor in the U.S.? If you do something, you should not do it at the expense of something else. If it makes sense and it’s profitable, we usually do things. It needs to be right. I’m not asking the company for money to make products that are not profitable.
Are there gaps in your lineup you would like
to fill? A big thing to resolve on the car side is to offer performance and not get handicapped by CO2 and sustainability. In terms of lineup, we are constantly expanding. On the STS we are bringing new offerings. You see the first Edge ST, and it will not be the last one in that segment.
There’ll be an Explorer ST? Yeah. It’s a strong one. How do you compare your strategy to AMG? Will every Ford have a performance variant? We want to hedge our bets. We have limited resources, people-wise and financially, and we deploy them where we get the most payback.
You will have GT350 and GT500 in the same showroom for the first time. What’s
the thinking? They play to different customers. GT350 is a track-focused vehicle but deploys power in a different way than a GT500. GT500 for the first time also will be very track-capable, but it’s also very straight-lined. It plays in both and gives you the highest level of horsepower. You will not spin a tire as easily in a GT350, but a GT500 will have strengths that GT350 doesn’t have.
When does the GT500 show up in the
showroom? It will be a ’20 model year, so sometime in the second half of next year. It’s an exciting machine. We have a long history on improving capability on our GT500, doing something big every year.
What will you debut with this one? It will have more power than we ever had. We told you 700 plus, and it’s not 701 or 702; it’s plus and a little bit.
Which one should we invite to Best Driver’s
Car? There’s a little more weight on the front of a GT500 with a supercharger, so you have to deal with it. But I have excellent vehicle dynamics engineers that worked on that. It handles extremely well. It’s not just a straight-line car.
Can we look forward to a King of the Road
version a year or two in? I did the last King of the Road. It was a lot of work. We built our first 1,000 units, then another 1,000 units, and produced a price span nobody else had done at that level. We added to a car that was a slightly above $20,000 V-6 Mustang, and that KR was about $80,000. Dealers put a hefty markup on top. I’m pretty sure many sold for more than $100,000. And this was for a 2008.5 KR model.