Ford to design 'confident' vehicles
By MARK RECHTIN | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
The Ford Edge is one of the first steps to redefining Ford.
LAS VEGAS - In contrast to the dour mood at a company hemorrhaging red ink and cutting tens of thousands of jobs, Ford designers have been instructed to give its future products a "confident" attitude.
"We want to show that we are proud to be an American company," said Moray Callum, Ford Motor Co.'s design director for passenger cars. "We need to be noticed. If we don't, we're dead."
But American design does not require retro touches of past successes, said Patrick Schiavone, Ford's design director for light trucks.
Schiavone sees innovations such as the Apple iPod as being distinctively American without being retro.
"Modern American car design doesn't have to be about the Shelby Mustang and Hemi Barracuda," Schiavone said. "It's about the Edge, which redefines the car. We're trying to find our mojo, and I think we've found it."
Callum wants his team to bring the same kind of forward thinking as the designers who created the original Taurus did. That aerodynamic 1986 car, which debuted in an era of boxy design, was a smash hit.
"Ford hasn't done that good a job in the last five years of expressing confidence," Callum said. The two engineers were interviewed at the SEMA show here.
Ford needs to survey customers to get a sense of the marketplace, Callum said. But he adds: "the more we rely on market research, the less we are confident in our own expertise."
He compared Ford's situation with Japanese automakers after Japan's bubble economy burst in the early 1990s.
"The Japanese produced boring cars until someone kicked their ass," said Callum, who was Mazda's styling chief before shifting to Ford last summer. "We can't afford to be a wallflower."
That means giving a serious look at startling vehicles like the Iosis X crossover concept from the Paris auto show in September. But Callum would prefer to design the production version in America rather than have Ford of Europe interpret what Americans might want.
As for a Scotsman being placed in charge of overseeing distinctively American car design, Callum shrugs and says: "Go figure. But a Brit designed the iPod, too."