A new breed of consumers like their computers as much as the cars they drive — and that has Ford Motor Co. a bit stumped.
Last year, Mays' design team showed the 021C concept car — a strange aluminum-paneled sedan colored orange and white. It had one long headlight and one long taillight.
The out-of-the-box design was an effort to reach out to people for whom cars are not quite as hip as a laptop.
"It's out of our comfort zone," admitted Mays, speaking Friday at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable at the Four Seasons Hotel. "But at the same time, it's something we need to experiment with. We need a dialogue with these people."
Mays said that more such iMac experiments are in the works. "We're going to do more in this direction," he said. But he clarified that the 021C is "certainly not the direction Ford or any of our officials will be taking."
If anything, Ford's upcoming vehicle designs will be characterized by emotion.
In Mays' terminology, emotion means that a consumer will buy a car not just because he needs it, but because he loves the way it looks and it makes his life feel a little better.
"A lot of people say design is all about innovation. I disagree with that," he said.
"I believe design is about quality of life. Ford is looking for that in everything we design today.
"It's what was important to you as a child," Mays said. "It's an emotional relationship."
Ford's recent concept vehicles, including this year's Forty-Nine and the earlier Thunderbird concept, have been called retro because they borrow styling cues from past decades. But Mays believes the retro label is masking the real direction of the design.
That direction, he said, is toward looks and features that consumers have an inexplainable attraction to, often associated with memories. They are images or emotion that consumers "cherish and collect."