Ed Krenz might best be known as chief program engineer for the current Ford GT. Yet his other gig — chief functional engineer, Ford Performance — carries the mantle of car-geek celebrity engineers such as John Coletti, Jost Capito, Dave Pericak and Jamal Hameedi.
Krenz was born near Washington, D.C., in 1972, and graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. Through 24 years at Ford Motor Co., Krenz has done duty in just about every corner of the auto engineering business, including manufacturing, powertrain, control systems and vehicle integration. He has taken a lead role at Ford Performance, the group in charge of racing and performance development, as Ford shifts its focus from cars to light trucks and moves out of the sedan business in the United States.
We sided up to Krenz at the launch of the 2019 Ford Edge to ask him about the Edge ST — the first SUV tuned by Ford Performance — and where the Performance brand goes from here.
2019 Ford Edge ST
Q: Did you feel any extra pressure doing the Edge ST?
Krenz: Yeah, there was another level of anxiety, but also excitement, because we were doing something new. We know how to do Shelby Mustangs, and we’re very comfortable with it, pushing that technology to the next level. We’ve done a couple generations of Raptors, and we know what product success is on that end of the spectrum. There are always engineering challenges, but we feel equipped to handle them.
In this context, I think it’s also important to note that we know what ST is. We have what we could call brand DNA for the ST. We know in customer terms what the proof points are and what an ST needs to be, from the Fiesta ST and the Focus ST and a lot of legacy products going back a long way in Europe and the United States. So then we translate the customer terms to engineering objectives and measures — hundreds of them. The ST is an out-the-door performance vehicle, and we look at performance in several ways. We look at competitive set, at uplift from our base vehicle. We have engineering criteria that range from advertised power to straight-line performance to track-time capability. And we look at sustained capability — which means repeated use without fade, in acceleration or brake performance, whether you’re doing a track session or a mountain twisty type course, the vehicle will be there for you. Sustained capability is what, fundamentally, makes the Fiesta ST a Ford Performance product and why, for example, the Mustang GT with Performance Pack II isn’t. That’s an extremely capable vehicle, but it wasn’t developed with our sustained capability requirement.
We know what an Edge ST needs to be. The engineering challenge, of course, is taking those brands promises and the corresponding engineering expectations and moving them into a new cycle, in a package that isn’t like anything we’ve done before. It’s certainly challenging, but we know the promise we need to keep and we love a new challenge.
Q: You have a competitive set for an Edge, but you don’t really have one for an Edge ST. So what did you baseline? What did you benchmark?
Krenz: Well, exactly right. We very quickly came to the conclusion that we needed to be looking at premium sport vehicles, because there is nothing in the non-premium SUV sport segment that we could define as an ST’s competitive set. So we looked at the lower end of the premium sport vehicles. I purchased an (Audi) SQ5 and a Porsche Macan. And a lot of our competitive targets are derived from those two vehicles.
Q: Did you think about a more sophisticated all-wheel drive system than the Power Take off (PTO) in the standard Edge for the ST? Maybe something like the Focus RS?
Krenz: Let me answer with some context again. Our product portfolio, at Ford Performance, is two-fold. We have a track-inspired side, and maybe less relevant to this discussion, we have an off-road inspired side. Particularly on the track-inspired side, we’ve worked toward what we call a pyramid. The GT sits at the top, and given the price point, nothing is spared.
Then we have what we call a level one — your Shelbys, your RS. They have the same DNA principles I just outlined, but the targets are significantly more aggressive. The STs we might call level two — the brand DNA, but hopefully accessible to a larger customer base. You aren’t the first person to ask, “why wouldn’t you use the MagnaRide from the Shelbys or the GKN twin-clutch all-wheel drive from the RS?” If we did we’d be positioning the Edge up toward level one, and that is certainly something you could see going forward, but for the Edge ST promise, and the mission, we think we have the appropriate content level.
Q: To some extent Ford Performance gets what it’s dealt: If the company says no more cars, that’s what you have to work with. On the other hand, ST buyers have been a loyal group. With the Focus ST gone and the Fiesta ST going, it’s a long way up in price to a GT350. Are you giving those people up?
Krenz: Certainly we expect to bring the ST brand to a new customer with the Edge — a customer that maybe, for lifestyle reasons, couldn’t consider a Focus or a Fiesta ST — and we certainly hope to build that loyalty with them. But to answer your question, no, we absolutely are not giving up on the (Fiesta and Focus ST owners).
I met with the big influencers from the ST clubs and websites, and I heard the same question. But I also heard “I’m married now, and have a kid, and this vehicle makes perfect sense.” And to those who weren’t in a situation to make that step, I tried to re-affirm the Ford Performance commitment to fast, fun, affordable vehicles. And I encouraged them to give the Edge ST a chance, because it’s all there. It isn’t meant to be a compromise on performance. It’s meant to reduce the compromise on the functionality.
Q: So what can you tell us about Performance products going forward? You’ve already announced an Explorer ST. Could there be an EcoSport ST?
Krenz: I can’t really tell you any more about the Explorer ST beyond the brand requirements we talked about. It will all be in there. It has to be.
Beyond that, I’ll say this. If you look backward in time, the Ford Performance portfolio has track-inspired sedans, coupes and pickups over a broad (price range), and off-road inspired pickups. What you don’t see are SUVs. Now Ford Motor Co. and the industry at large is moving more toward SUVs, and I think you can look ahead at Ford Performance with the same two lenses — the track inspired and the off-road inspired — and add SUVs. We’ll continue to build that pyramid, if you will, while meeting the customer’s expectations at a range of (price points), bringing SUVs into the view.
So absolutely, there could be an EcoSport ST. I’ll take it a step further in terms of what could be. Why wouldn’t we do a level-one performance SUV, something that really just gets out there and absolutely kills it? It’s a logical, strategic discussion to have, and it’s an engineering challenge, of course, to provide that GT350-level track capability in an SUV. But that’s what excites us.