NAIAS Watch: Ford Reaps Design Praise for Fusion, Lincoln


Ford’s press preview of its sleek new Fusion sedan and an MKZ concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show this week kicked up the kind of design-oriented buzz that the automaker hasn’t seen in a quarter-century.

The Fusion’s debut at CES also generated buzz, prompting tech blogger Robert Scoble to post the photo above on Instagram and comment, “The new Ford Fusion just launched at CES. Pretty cool electric.”  As the automaker’s executives previewed their new-product plan for financial analysts at the Detroit Auto Show, it became evident that that the company intends to keep making this kind of noise.

After wowing thousands of auto journalists at its debut on Monday, Fusion followed up late yesterday by winning the annual Eyes on Design award for a production vehicle displayed at the show. It’s determined by a panel of industry design eminences, who were impressed by the almost-fastback silhouette of the new Fusion — which could shake up the staid mid-size sedan segment — and other design cues, such as inverted-trapezoidal front grille, sweeping front-to-rear lines and what Ford calls lots of “light catchers” on the sheet-metal surfaces.

“This is extremely significant, not only because of the new design for Fusion but also because this gives Ford a lot of scope for derivative models off of a new platform,” Eyes on Design judge Jack Telnack, retired design chief for Ford, told brandchannel. And Telnack should know, as he was mastermind of the design of the 1986 Ford Taurus that revolutionized the industry then with its “jellybean” design.[more]

As Lincoln begins launching a promised stream of new and vastly overhauled models this year, they will begin sporting the brand more aggressively and strategically. “With the Lincoln MKZ Concept, we are not introducing a new car. We are essentially introducing a new brand,” Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of global product development, said in a statement. “The MKZ Concept is the next step in the reinvention of Lincoln, something we’ve been quietly but aggressively pursuing.”

Jim Farley, Group VP of Global Marketing Sales and Service at Ford, commented, “When we start rolling out these vehicles that are completely unique, then we’re going to have some customers interested they haven’t, but it won’t work unless the brand is transformed beyond the product and the experience is something refreshing. And our point of view on the experience is that we feel that with all the size and all the hundreds of thousands of units sold that there is a real opportunity in the market for personal attention once again.”

As Kuzak told analysts, “bold, emotive design” is a pillar of Ford’s global strategy going forward, and Fusion demonstrates “the next generation of our global design DNA.” Other important elements for Ford include a focus on “true product excellence,” sustainability, efficiency in product development and high value-for-price ratios. The reception of the new Fusion doesn’t hurt, either.