IAB Specials-The story behind the Ford Verve
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The all-new Ford Fiesta is the first small car segment application of the company’s kinetic design philosophy first introduced with the iosis and iosis X concept cars and builds on the premium feel of latest production models like the new Mondeo and Focus.
A preview of the model was provided by the Verve Concept, presented at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, on which the design of the new Fiesta is mainly based, both for the exterior and the interior, inspired by premium hi-tech products.
As Ford Executive Director of Design Martin Smith explains: “The striking Verve Concept was the first indication of how kinetic design could be applied to a small car and it sparked many questions, the most common being ‘Can you really build that concept?’ To me, new Fiesta answers this question with a resounding ‘Yes’. It is Verve realised, not compromised.”
Below we report the official design story:
Since the iosis concept vehicle introduced kinetic design in 2005, each new Ford has been created in a new interpretation of this form language, translating the trademark bold graphic elements and proportions to create a family of distinctive models.
Ford of Europe’s Executive Director of Design, Martin Smith, uses expressions like ‘precision sculpted’, ‘agile muscularity’ and ‘toned athleticism’ to describe the Ford design philosophy that has now created all-new Fiesta.
However, this does not mean a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Martin Smith explains: “Kinetic design is not just a matter of ‘cut and paste’ from one vehicle to the next; each is a new interpretation of the fundamental design elements.
“A kinetic small car can emphasize different elements of the form language to a larger car, and to different degrees.”
The result is a new Fiesta that joins a family of vehicles immediately identifiable as new generation Fords, yet with distinctive character to appeal to their target audiences.
All-new Fiesta asserts its own air of confidence, stylishness and individuality.
The Design Team at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show
“We have a kinetic family look now – each individual, yet instantly identifiable as part of the new generation of Ford vehicles,” explains Smith.
Concept and market target
For all-new Fiesta, the challenge for Smith and his team was to reflect the character of this popular small car, while reinvigorating the Fiesta brand to attract a new generation of new customers and ensuring that the new model would be recognized as a modern Ford.
The predominately young target audience was defined early on by the design team as ‘Design Progressives’ – a group that immediately identified with the kinetic design philosophy of ‘energy in motion’.
Ford Verve Concept
Early in the design process, the design team showed different design concepts to groups of these customers, translating the favoured treatment into the original Verve Concept, later revealed at auto shows around the world.
From the outset, the Verve Concept was created with an eye toward production. Through this process, all-new Fiesta customers are clearly able to see the strong visual relationship between the concept car that excited them and the production car created from it.
Many subtle design elements were designed to be enhanced through colour.
The unique exterior colour of the European Verve Concept – called Hot Magenta – has been translated to the production car as one of seven new colours developed for all-new Fiesta – with a total of 14 exterior colours available.
It wears the distinctive, bold Ford ‘face’, with the signature, large, inverted trapezoidal lower grille and large, centred Ford oval badge that characterises both the Verve Concept and other modern Ford family vehicles.
Chrome and brightwork are used selectively, like jewellery accents, to convey elegance and sophistication. The lower grille features this effect with its clean, precise chrome surround.
The grille is finished with a bisecting, horizontal number plate bar and framed by a dynamic-looking front structure, sculpted as if a pair of ‘toned muscles’ were located on either side of the bonnet.
The application of such a strong face creates recognition and communicates an attitude that is bold and sporty, yet friendly and engaging.
“We focused on bringing more emotion and character into Fiesta and to make the car appear larger and more athletic than the previous model, even though it remains the same size,” explains Stefan Lamm, Chief Exterior Designer, Ford of Europe.
“The grille is one of the main elements in achieving this, by drawing attention to the front of the car.”
Moving rearwards, sleek, wraparound headlamps sweep back sharply, making both a strong visual statement as well as allowing for a very short shut-line to the sculpted, clamshell hood.
This treatment gives all-new Fiesta a friendly, open and inviting personality, and in turn helps fulfil the requirements of pedestrian protection.
Strong brand character elements feature along the side of the vehicle, with bold, pronounced wheel arch lips – now a key feature of the Ford brand DNA and present across the portfolio of models.
These communicate tension and muscularity, signature elements of kinetic design.
Above the wheel lips is a rising bodyside beltline, a strong dynamic line sweeping along the side of the car towards the high rear light cluster.
This maintains the ‘wedge’ attitude admired on the Verve Concept and communicates robustness. The undercut panel running beneath this line adds strength and tension, while the door handles are carefully integrated, for a tidy, harmonious finish.
A sloping A-pillar extends forward towards the front wheel centre line to shorten visually the overhang, while an A-pillar window adds to the sporty look and aids visibility.
All-new Fiesta retains the sweeping profile and treatment of the glass area – or Day Light Opening (DLO) – of the Verve Concept.
This acts as a visual reinforcement of apparent movement that does much to emphasize the car’s sporty character. Side windows combine neatly to create a unified side window graphic – another kinetic design element that communicates dynamism.
The upper arc of this window shape forms a feature line that incorporates the shapes of the tail lamps and rear spoiler into a coherent signature, while an elegant chrome accent frames the lower edge of the side glass and accentuates the established Ford ‘kick-up’ at the lower rear corner.
At the same time, the sweeping roofline extends back appealingly from the forward-stretching A-pillar, framing the bold graphic of the Fiesta side window profile just as on the Verve Concept.
This design approach is applied to both three-door and five-door models, retaining a dramatic and dynamic profile without sacrificing the true family car package.
“We took the five-door design as seriously as the three-door,” says Stefan Lamm. “Both cars are based on the same body, which makes the five-door particularly sporty and dynamic, almost like a five-door coupé.”
At the rear of the car, many kinetic elements combine, including the chamfered rear glass area, low roofline sweeping into a small spoiler, the distinctive licence plate graphic and tail lamps with honeycomb detailing, positioned high on Fiesta’s rear corners.
Smith believes this combination is “the most distinctive aspect of the vehicle”.
An integrated, dark grey lower diffuser insert accentuates the bumper shape and adds to the athletic stance of all-new Fiesta.
The diffuser lends an air of lightness to the rear shape while its lines stretching outward toward the bumper lip draw the eyes once again to the wheels and Fiesta’s sporty stance.
Niko Vidakovic, Chief Interior Designer, explains: “New Fiesta is a quantum leap in bringing kinetic design elements into interior design.
“This type of visual innovation – linking the form language of the interior so strongly with the exterior – is something we believe no other company is doing.”
All-new Fiesta’s interior is characterized by a “courageous use of dynamic lines, full surfaces and bold graphics.”
Boldly shaped surfaces and contrasting colours and materials feature in an enveloping dashboard design that wraps around the driver and passenger and creates individual space.
Through the application of carefully developed and matched colours and trims, all-new Fiesta’s interior meets a full spectrum of customer desires, from a playful sense of fashion to mature sophistication.
“It’s a warm, inviting cabin,” explains Niko Vidakovic. “We’ve taken great care to ensure that this overall feel is maintained across the all-new Fiesta range, but differentiated by the use of a range of colours and trim materials.”
Designed for the Times
For inspiration, new Fiesta’s Design team studied extensively the styling and use of luxury goods and consumer electronics to create the look and feel for the cabin and main controls.
From the driver’s seat, the eye is drawn immediately to all-new Fiesta’s striking instrument panel centre stack.
Designed for a global population familiar with the design language and intuitive operation of mobile phones and personal music players, the centre stack houses the car’s Human Machine Interface (HMI), linked to a multi-function display screen in a high-mounted binnacle, close to the driver’s field of vision.
Functionally, a key element of the design is the decoupling of the traditional in-car entertainment system elements – screen, controls and electronics – made possible by development of underlying technologies.
This allowed designers to place controls and buttons for optimal ergonomic positioning in a design that resembles the usage logic of a modern mobile phone.
“Cars in the past featured a ‘big brick’ audio head unit, which created vertical surfaces,” explains Vidakovic.
“In new Fiesta, the only visible part of the underlying electronics is the CD slot. The buttons and the multi-function displays are separated from the electronic control unit and this is far less constraining on design freedom.”
As a result, every button and switch on the HMI has been crafted with the attention to detail that characterises portable electronic designs.
The stylish rotary controls for heating and air-conditioning that sit at the base of the centre stack, styled to reflect the look and feel of high-end power shower controls.
“Simple touches can radiate a feeling of quality,” says Vidakovic. “These are critical touch points in the cabin, for both driver and passenger and creating a sensation of class through their styling and movement was essential.”
Surrounding the centre stack are several defining interior elements that tell you immediately this must be a new Ford – with every one of these elements designed to reflect the character of the vehicle.
The mobile phones-inspired interior of the 2007 Verve Concept
“Most important is the steering wheel,” highlights Vidakovic. “It’s the core interaction between driver and vehicle and carries a size and feel that communicates all-new Fiesta’s sportiness and confident driving quality.”
The wheel has a modern, sculpted feel, using bright accents on its spokes to create a futuristic look.
The design of the new control stalks on the steering columninspired by the packaging of luxury cosmetics, which often incorporate sophisticated, quality detailing to convey brand appeal.
Colors and trims
The range and breadth of colours, materials and interior trims available is class leading and will address the needs of both traditional customers and the predominately younger buyers who may be new to the Ford brand.
In total, there are five distinct series options – Studio, Style, Zetec, Zetec S and Titanium – and 20 different colour and trim combinations for the interior.
Each option features a two-colour instrument panel, with differing contrasts toned to match the palette of the exterior.
The blend of colours was inspired by the exclusive fabrics and leathers of haute couture, according to Ruth Pauli, Chief Designer, Colours and Trims, Ford of Europe.
“Colour plays an important role in making an emotional contact with customers,” Pauli explains. “With new Fiesta, we have selected expressive colours in the right harmonies and contrasts, together with quality materials like glove-leather that’s beautiful to touch. These details bring a feeling of ‘premium-ness’ into a volume small car.”
The use of colour and kinetic design elements allowed the Design team to create more contemporary interpretations of established models and to incorporate new considerations, such as street fashion, into other models in the range. For example:
- The Studio model offers a warm, inviting cabin, using a light contrast instrument panel
- The Style and Style + series takes its inspiration from designer clothing and bespoke suits to emphasize a contemporary feel
- The all-new Zetec S model offers a neutral or blue theme in higher contrast colours and an inlaid graphic element reflective of those used in snowboard designs
- The modern Zetec and Titanium models employ a Soho Burgundy red colour, with dark gloss, high contrast finishes for a sleek, technical appearance, inspired by premium technology brands
“Each series should look different and have a different feeling,” concludes Pauli. “The same, striking interior form language can create a range of moods through the application of different colour and trim materials, from sporty to sophisticate.”
For the Titanium series, an Aesthetic Lighting Pack enhances the use of colour even further. with a dome light comprising two small LEDs – situated in the overhead courtesy lamp – which illuminates the centre console and gearshift area in a soft red glow.
A second ambient LED light source within the dash panel above the glove box emits a complementary soft red light on the passenger side of the car.
When the doors are opened, ambient lights brighten and are matched with footwell courtesy lighting. Even the centre console has an internal red LED illumination when opened that reflects premium electronic devices.
Martin Smith concludes: “This is designed to be the most complete, expressive and exciting Fiesta Ford has ever produced, inside and out.”
Global Product Development System
All-new Fiesta is the first global Ford product developed using key methodologies from the new Ford Global Product Development System (GPDS).
GPDS integrates digital design, engineering and manufacturing technologies to reduce the time-to-market of products and to facilitte manufacturing flexibility and product differentiation between different brands based on a common platform.
This was essential in allowing Ford and Mazda to work together efficiently to share the core, yet invisible base architecture for their individual small cars.
“GPDS is essentially an extension of previous product development collaboration within the Ford family,” explains Marin Burela, the company’s Executive Director of Small Cars.
“For example, the latest European Focus shares technologies and certain components and architectures with the Volvo S40/V50 and the Mazda 3.”
For small cars, Ford and Mazda engineers collaborated closely on key engineering elements of a new architecture, bringing together the best of their respective areas of expertise.
The approach delivered a strong foundation that would enable the two brands to design individual vehicles and customise the attributes of their respective products, choosing from an array of technologies that can be tuned to provide specific customer benefits.
“We undertook a complete CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) assessment at the attribute level and conducted two events to virtual-build the new car completely in the digital environment,” says Dieter Schwarz, Vehicle Engineering Manager for all-new Fiesta globally.
“This helped us identify any manufacturing issues very early in the development process, and that made a huge difference when we started actual production. Our first test-build on the production line had very few issues and the second one sailed through.”
Source : Ford via Car Body Design