SANDTON, Gauteng – Moray Callum leads the design of all concept and production vehicles for the Ford and Lincoln brands globally and has an impressive list of winners under his belt, among them the latest Ford Fusion, Explorer, Mustang, EcoSport and Lincoln MKZ.
Quite a portfolio. And with it Ford intends to tap into a market which, it believes, is growing exponentially. “Africa is one of the youngest markets in the world,” Callum says. “There is an opportunity to provide an affordable product for the people of the continent.”
HENRY’S VISION LIVES ON
In many ways ‘Go Further’ is a modern interpretation of Henry Ford’s vision to “open the highways to all mankind…” and the freedom that comes with both personal transport and economic development. Ford is helping realise Henry’s vision in 2014 throughout Africa through the ‘One Ford’ philosophy of a global company building and designing cars for a global audience continues to be the driving force behind the brand.
And Callum is leading the way. He says Ford’s trend is to use designs common across the world with specific adaptations for markets rather than designs in silos. He believes “good design transcends countries”.
Ford is also taking product across global markets – the Mustang into Africa and the Fiesta into the US. Is this move successful? “Yes,” says Callum. “More-efficient investment. The biggest proof is the number of products we are bringing out. We do, however, need to adapt continuously to changing needs and different wants.”
He gives the example of in-vehicle satnav. This is a costly extra and this market feels it is an unnecessary extra. They are far happier with a docking station for a phone – most of which have exceptionally capable navigation tools. This may sound like a no-brainer but it’s a smart move in the Ford Go Further drive.
DESIGN: A BUYER’S MAGNET
Callum says there are still challenges when it comes to design and engineering adaptations for different countries – just one example is the difference in crash standards and regulations. Design is not just practical, though – it is the magnet that attracts the buyer in the first place and the one which keeps them brand loyal.
“Style is paramount when it comes to designing cars,” says Callum. “There is a two-second window when the potential buyer starts what we call an emotional journey. First the face of Ford – the first impressions of the front end design which will determine whether the potential buyer will even look inside.
“It is not a rational moment,” says Callum. “It is only after this that you are able to showcase your interior design: the start button, steering-wheel, finishes, gears and facia. We are always learning and finding out what REALLY matters in terms of design for the buyer.
“During a survey among motorists asking what they thought was the most innovative design element in cars the overriding answer was ‘the cup holder’. Designers and engineers would have expected anti-lock brakes, airbags, perhaps reversing cameras, but design remains simple.
“We have also learned that although technology is very important it must not be gratuitous.”
I asked about how Ford ensures that technology stays ahead of the galloping developments led by geeky techno heroes. Callum counters to say Ford recently opened an office in Silicon Valley, California, to ensure that the new Applink (an enhanced version of Ford’s smart, in-car technology) would let drivers control certain, supported smartphone applications on Android and iOS platforms.
This includes issuing voice commands from your mobile app to dictate and read text messages to limit driving distraction. “We need to be in the hub of where it is happening to be 100% sure all the apps are absolutely foolproof before we launch them.”
Ford leaves no stone unturned when it comes to designing for practicality. Pregnancy suits, artificial nails to test the efficiencyof buttons and reaching through handles – even reduced mobility suits for older people (ageing population suits) to emulate the restricted movement and how it will affect car design are all part of a day’s work.
ANTICIPATION, THE NAME OF THE GAME
“We also test the cars for various sporting equipment, baby carriers and other loads – the practical aspect of the car remains paramount.” Callum ends the interview by saying: “We want to anticipate what people want before they know they want it and give them just the right amount of technology.”
Ford is going further – yes, absolutely. By design.