FRANKFURT - When Ford Europe brought out its new lower-medium car in 1998, the design was so radical Ford decided to change the name. The tried-and-true Escort name was out. An entirely new name - Focus - was in.
Ford called the radical design New Edge. It was characterized by "hard edges and bold intersecting graphics," in the words of Chris Bird, Ford Europe director of design. Subsequent cars carried on the New Edge theme, including the current Fiesta, Mondeo and Fusion. But those cars were more conservatively styled than the original Focus, which remains the boldest statement of New Edge design.
With the Iosis concept introduced at last month's IAA in Frankfurt, Ford has replaced New Edge once and for all. The new concept, called Kinetic Design, is meant to move the Ford brand upscale into quasi-premium territory.
End of New Edge
J Mays, Ford's global design chief, says that in the past, "We ended up with a generation of very well-executed, albeit slightly Teutonic-looking cars. They really didn't reflect the sort of fun you have driving a Ford."
Says Bird: "The idea was that we would look for a statement that captures peoples' imaginations. Kinetic design is more three-dimensional and has more depth than New Edge."
Martin Smith, executive director of design for Ford Europe, calls Kinetic design "more athletic and muscular."
Ford's new Kinetic design, shown on the Iosis concept, is meant to move the Ford brand upscale.
The change in direction goes right to the top of Ford. Mays says that Ford's European management team, led by Chairman Lewis Booth, has relaxed restraints on the product development team, opening the way for new design opportunities.
Kinetic design acknowledges that design is more crucial than ever in convincing customers to choose a brand, Bird says. That is why Ford Europe's marketing team, led by Jürgen Stackmann, executive vice president of marketing, was more involved in the design process right from the start, Bird says.
Since the original Focus, Ford has been emphasizing driving dynamics as one of its core brand values in Europe. Kinetic design is intended to be the external expression of that value. Ford also recognized its designs were not emotional enough to connect with some buyers.
The change in direction comes right from the top of Ford Motor Co., which also is trying to get bolder with its designs in North America, where many of its new vehicles have been criticized as too conservative.