Ford Motor Co. believes the furniture and fashion industries might have something to teach it about cockpit design. The automaker is opening a $15 million styling center in London next year. Designers there will do contract work for nonautomotive clients in addition to their work with Ford. 'We believe we need to attract more than automotive stylists,' said Nick Scheele, chairman of Ford of Europe. 'Increasingly, automotive design, particularly interiors, is being influenced by furniture design, fabric and so on.'
In one sign of Ford's wide-ranging serach for ideas, J Mays, Ford's worldwide design head, recently toured the 39th Milan International Furniture Fair. 'I do this one day; I might be doing a deep dive into an architectural firm the next,' Mays told AutoWeek magazine. 'After the last Geneva Show, I flew down to Milan and took a tour of three manufacturing facilities that do luxury goods for Gucci and Prada. That's a totally different experience. What I'm interested in ar the manufacturing techniques and how they get the quality.'