Shaping the Future of Ford Vehicles: Freeman Thomas

Having lived nearly half his life in Europe and the rest in the U.S., Freeman Thomas sees the world of cars through an international lens – and that’s shaping the way he views the lineup of future Ford vehicles.

Designing Compelling Vehicles

As Strategic Design director for North America, Thomas leads advanced design teams in both California and Dearborn, MI. In addition to developing product design strategies and concept vehicles for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, the Strategic Design team works closely with the Advanced Product Creation team of engineers and product experts to create compelling new production vehicles.

His 24-year design career boasts a hit parade of vehicles including everything from the 500-horsepower Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle, the “Noble American Sedan” strategy that evolved into the production version Chrysler 300C, as well as the Audi TT concept and Volkswagen Concept 1 (known today as the “New Beetle”), which he developed in the 1990s with J Mays, Ford Motor Company group vice president of Design and chief creative officer.


After graduating in 1983 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, which he attended on a full Ford scholarship, Thomas kicked off his career as a senior designer at Porsche AG.

He left Porsche at the end of 1987 to open up his own design consultancy, which included Porsche as his major client. Other activities included teaching design at Art Center and providing design analysis and reviews in popular automotive magazines.

Thomas joined Audi in 1991, helping deliver key vehicle designs such as the Volkswagen Concept 1 and its cabriolet concept in 1994 as well as the Audi TT concept and the Audi TTS Spyder Concept the following year.

He moved to SHR in 1996, following Mays. This time, the duo created a series of innovative aluminum space-frame vehicles for Alcoa that forecast the future of the “crossover.”

Thomas returned to Volkswagen in 1996 as chief designer in the Simi Valley, California, studio. He was named vice president of DaimlerChrysler Advanced Product Design Strategy in 1999, a position he filled until he was named the head of Pacifica Advanced Design Center in 2002.

That same year, Thomas was awarded an honorary doctorate from Art Center College of Design, making him one of few alumni recipients, along with J Mays.

A devotee of automobiles, aircraft and motorcycles, Thomas counts consuming culture, art and design among his favorite hobbies. He also enjoys traveling with his wife and daughter.