Ford shortens its cycle for changes in styling

Fordís North American design chief, Peter Horbury, already is directing the restyling of the Ford Flex. Itís part of the companyís plan to prevent its models from going stale.
NEW YORK — With shipments to dealers of the 2009 Ford Flex barely under way, the automaker already is beginning the crossover's restyling, due in about three years.

"To be working on the next one immediately is quite unnerving. It is strange, really," said Peter Horbury, Ford Motor Co.'s North American design director. "What do we do? Usually it would have been five years."

Faster, more frequent styling changes are part of Ford's plan to draw attention to its products. The company wants to prevent models from going stale, resulting in lower sales and big incentives.

The intent of a face-lift is to maintain sales. It isn't realistic to expect a midcycle sales boost, Horbury noted.

Citing the redesigned 2004 F-150 pickup and the major styling changes for the 2009 F-150, Horbury said research indicates that "there is no value in minor changes but a huge value in major changes.

"The days of: 'I got a 2009 and you have a 2008 because the front lamp is changed' are gone. That is not worth it."

Speaking of the next Flex during an interview at a Ford press event here, Horbury said the doors, greenhouse and glass likely will remain the same.

"Beyond that," he said, designers are "free to change."

Horbury added: "The time period for one model staying on the streets will be much shorter. We have to keep it fresh." 

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