EXCLUSIVE: Jost Capito, Head of SVT and Performance Vehicles, Leaving Ford to Lead Volkswagen Motorsport [UPDATED]
Ford and its director of Global Performance Vehicles, Jost Capito, are parting ways, the company confirmed to Car and Driver this afternoon. During an 11-year tenure with Ford, Capito oversaw the development of the SVT Raptor and the upcoming Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Working in Europe from 2001 to 2009, Capito ran Ford’s RS division, which was responsible not just for hot road cars like the Focus RS, but also the company’s motorsports efforts in series such as the World Rally Championship.
It’s unclear why Capito is headed out of Dearborn. In a written statement, a Ford spokesman said the following: “We thank Jost Capito for his contributions on the company’s performance vehicles and motorsports plan. We wish him well as he begins a new chapter in his career.” As is the norm with high-level corporate personnel changes, neither Ford nor Capito are discussing the terms of his departure.
Ford is known in the industry for having a relatively regimented corporate culture, and the SVT division a less-than-stellar relationship with the rest of the organization. Capito’s predecessor, John Coletti, was considered even more of a maverick, and had as many detractors as he had fans amongst the management ranks. Coletti left in 2004. His last project, the epic Ford GT sports car, launched in 2004, and after that the division churned out only a few lackluster products. A Shelby GT500 arrived in 2006, but its ponderous size and weight kept it an also-ran until the Capito Era began. Soon after Capito arrived, the GT500 became a real contender, and we’re just a few months away from a new 200-mph, 650-hp GT500 also created under his watch. That’s two dynamo bosses, two strong independent streaks, and one stretch of dull cars between them. We hope we’re not in for another dry spell.
We don’t expect this to cause any delays to the late-2012 arrival of the Focus ST in the U.S., but the Fiesta ST—which still is not officially confirmed for U.S. sales—could be losing its champion. Nevertheless, we expect Ford to go ahead and offer it here. As for Capito, should he land at another automaker, it likely will be their gain.
UPDATE 3/29 9:15 a.m. EDT: Looks like it will be Volkswagen’s gain: The German company has just announced the hiring of Capito as head of VW Motorsport, effective May 1. In addition to overseeing Ford’s highly successful factory WRC efforts, the German engineer has extensive experience in Formula 1, has headed Porsche racing efforts, and has won the Paris-Dakar rally in the truck class. In short, he has more than enough chops to make this move, which will give him control over VW’s own recently created WRC rally operations (which start in earnest for the 2013 season), as well as its Dakar truck program. There also have been rumblings about Volkswagen or one of its brands entering Formula 1 sometime later in the decade, and Capito would no doubt relish the chance to start an F1 team from scratch.