You probably know Hau Thai Tang as the man who led the engineering teamfor the '05 Mustang as Chief Nameplate Engineer. He was also deeplyinvolved in the development of the '01 Cobra and '01 Bullitt, as well ashandling the vehicle dynamics on the Lincoln LS. He was also a raceengineer with Nigel Mansell and Mario Andretti in Formula 1, so heobviously knows performance. On December 1, 2004, Hau was appointedDirector, Advanced Product Creation and Special Vehicle Team. After aswirl of rumors regarding the future of SVT, Hau kicked off his tenurewith debut of the highly anticipated Shelby Cobra GT 500 and Sport TracAdrenalin. Since Hau is instrumental in creating the cars we will drivein the years to come, we decided to ask him a few questions.
1.0 Can you give us a littlebackground on your professional career?
I have been with Ford for 17 years. I started in Chassis Engineering aspart of the Ford College Graduate Training Program and progressedthrough various jobs in Product Development. My expertise is inChassis/Suspension Design and Vehicle Dynamics. My work experienceincludes a year on the CART program as race engineer for Newman-HaasRacing during the 1993 season. I have also worked in Cologne, Germanyfor Ford of Europe. All of my work experience has been on RWD productsand I have worked on pretty much all of the modern Ford RWD platforms:Fox-based Mustang, Crown Vic/Grand Marquis/Town Car, MN12T-Bird/Cougar/Mark VIII, DEW98 Lincoln LS/S-Type/T-Bird, Scorpio/Sierra,and S197 Mustang.
2.0 What are your top-threecareer highlights?
Race engineer for Nigel Mansell & Mario Andretti and winning driver'sand manufacturer's championship in 1993 for Ford. Vehicle EngineeringManager for Lincoln LS that was named Motor Trend Car of the Year. ChiefEngineer for 2005 Mustang Program.
3.0 Your title is Director,Advanced Product Creation and SVT. What are your job responsibilities?
I have responsibility for doing the pre-program engineering for futureNorth American Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products. This includesworking closely with Design, Marketing, Finance, and Manufacturing toensure that we have compatibility between product hardware assumptionsand business objectives. We work on programs that are 5 to 7 years out.I also have responsibility for all SVT products and the Ford GT.
4.0 How different was workingon the S197 Mustang compared to the Lincoln LS?
The big difference is that we all knew what a Mustang represented and wehad 40 years of history to learn from, where as the LS was an all newnameplate and we were using that to shift the market perception of theLincoln brand. In that sense, the Mustang was much easier. However, theMustang posed a bigger technical challenge. We had to design acost-efficient platform that would make money at sub-$20,000 price pointand still have it be robust enough to make a good convertible andsupport SVT and other high-performance derivatives.
5.0 How has Carroll Shelbyimpacted SVT and its vehicles?
We have been working very closely with Carroll over the past few years.It started with the Ford GT and continued with the Cobra and GR1 conceptcars. This past year we moved our relationship to the next level bycollaborating on the Shelby Cobra GT 500. Carroll has been intimatelyinvolved with the vehicle design and development. He is a performancelegend and has done a great job of conveying his product vision to ourteam of designers and engineers.
6.0 What's it like to bereunited with Jay O'Connell?
It's fantastic. Jay and I have worked together from almost the beginningof our careers. We hired into Ford a few months apart and have workedtogether in Chassis Engineering, on the Lincoln LS program, and also inthe Small FWD/RWD cluster. He is an extremely talented engineer, afantastic driver, and a great people person. He is a huge asset to SVTand to Ford. I'm glad to have him back.
7.0 Are you feeling thepressure of enthusiasts' expectations at SVT?
Absolutely. Our customers are the lifeblood of our brand. They aredemanding and vocal and I wouldn't expect any less from them. We rely onthem to be ambassadors for our products and our job is to meet andexceed their high expectations.
8.0 How will SVT becontributing to non-SVT-branded vehicles?
SVT is the center-of-excellence within Ford NA for performance vehicles.We believe that there may be future opportunities for us to leveragethat expertise on non-SVT branded vehicles. We, in effect, did this withthe Ford GT. Nothing has been finalized, we are still studying it.
9.0 Along those lines, whatare your thoughts regarding other specialty Mustangs like the Bullittand Mach 1?
We're hoping for a Boss 302 and a 5.0 LX. I believe that there is roombetween a Mustang GT and a Shelby Cobra GT 500 in terms of productpositioning and market positioning. We will take your input underadvisement.
10.0 Most enthusiasts arepleased you've kept the solid-axle in the Mustang and the GT 500, butthe general automotive press has frowned upon it. What is your feelingabout the decision?
The four cornerstones of SVT are Performance, Substance, Exclusivity,and Value. Our job is to give our customers the greatest performancebang for the buck. The reality is that we have a very good rearsuspension in the base Mustang. It has beaten the best IRS cars from US,Japan, and Europe in Grand Am series. The incremental benefits of goingto an IRS were vastly outweighed by the incremental cost to theconsumer. I have no doubt whatsoever that we are doing the right thingfor our consumers.
11.0 When the Lightningprogram was suspended and John Coletti retired, a wildfire of rumorsspread across the Internet about SVT's demise. Now Ford is investingmore into the program than ever. Did enthusiasts' responses to thoserumors serve to strengthen SVT's position within Ford?
We have had some new people appointed at all levels of the company. It'salways nice to ground everyone on the importance of SVT. We appreciatehearing from our core customers and their input will always play a rolein our decision making process.
12.0 When the SVT Focusprogram ended, some said the car wasn't upscale enough to be an SVT.Could we see and SVT Focus when North America finally receives the C1platform?
Sorry, I can't comment on future product decisions.
13.0 What's on your iPod's most-played song list?
Hey Mama - Black Eyed Peas
Heaven - Los Lonely Boys
Where's the Love - Black Eyed Peas
100 Years - Five for Fighting
Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison