This week, we sat down with four members of the Ford Motor Company’s design team to talk about the automaker’s current designs and the future of Ford styling. Below are excerpts from our conversation with (pictured from left to right) David Woodhouse, Lincoln design director; Moray Callum, Ford vice president of design; Chris Svensson, design director for The Americas; and Joel Piaskowski, design director for strategic design.
What’s the biggest challenge for improving design in mainstream cars?
“What we’ve realized with Ford is that we tend to peak and then level off, and then we find out we need to accelerate again. One of the things that Alan [Mulally] has brought on board is a conscious effort not to do that. We’re not going to rest on our laurels.” – Moray Callum
Do infotainment technologies like touchscreens liberate interior designers to push new envelopes, or are they constraining?
“The more you’re relying on screens to increase functionality of your interiors, the bigger the screens get. In cars like the Tesla [Model S] it can be overwhelming in terms of its size. It’s a fine balance between stuff that’s on the screen and the manual buttons and knobs.” – Chris Svensson
“Technology can give us anything and everything, so we have to start editing it. We need to be more discerning about what it does. For a luxury car, the experience of the interior is all-important.” – David Woodhouse
Where does Ford want to take the next-generation Taurus in relation to the Fusion?
“There are two possible markets for Taurus: one is the U.S. large sedan segment, and quite frankly that’s a market that is getting smaller. But the Chinese market is one that could be very fruitful for us. The Ford brand has legs in China, and each time we’ve brought in a new model it’s done extremely well.” –Callum
Which other car companies does Ford admire and recognize as successful in terms of design?
“You’re influenced by lots of brands. People aren’t doing bad cars anymore. The most pertinent thing for us is, ‘How do we produce our cars we want at the costs we want?’ so we’re probably more liable to look at our Korean competition. But we’ll need to look at the premium brands as they come down in price and see how they do as well.” –Callum
What will Lincoln look like in the future?
“I think the experience is what’s going to differentiate the luxury players in the future. It’s about coming up with something that not just meets customer expectations, but exceeds them and then surprises with something you’d never expect.” –Woodhouse
“We’re not hiding the fact that Lincoln is a long-term story. The MKZ is the first part of that story. As we move on, we are going to be looking at different ways to communicate that luxury experience. China is looking to be a very important place for Lincoln, and they’ve got no idea what a ’61 Lincoln Continental looks like. But they know what Lincoln is. The brand has recognition there, so we’re in a positive place in China.” –Callum
“I don’t think Lincoln wants to do retro design in the future. That ship has sailed because it leaves you with nowhere to go. Everything we do in the future has got to be contemporary and modern. But the point of older Lincolns was that they connected with people and provided something memorable, and that’s something we need to tap into.” –Woodhouse