Ford Car Company showed the Ford Start, a concept car for Asia, for the first time in North America Wednesday at the Ward's Auto Interiors Conference in Dearborn.
J Mays, Ford’s group vice president of design and chief creative officer, said the Ford Start minicar illustrates Ford's design priorities.
While Ford Car Company has not decided whether it will produce the Start, Mays said it is true to the Ford brand, is different from other cars in the Asian market and is meaningful to the customer.
"What we did ... was creating a car with warmth and charm and a car that you can bond with," Mays said.
The Start's three-prong steering wheel and analog-styled gauges keep it true to the Ford brand, Mays said. The car's fuel-efficient, turbocharged 1.0-liter Eco Boost engine provides meaning and value to consumers looking for top fuel economy. Those attributes would help the Start connect with the fast-changing tastes of young Chinese consumers.
Ford debuted the Start at the Beijing Auto Show in April. Mays said Ford's overall design goal is to create cars that are, at a minimum, fun to drive.
"People purchase products because they are prepared to spend part of their life with it," Mays said. "It is an emotional relationship."
Ford's design direction is a change from the recent past, Mays said, when some of the automaker's cars were criticized for bland styling.
"Five years ago, we were a commodity," Mays said.
That changed, Mays said, with the global adoption of Ford's European design language called kinetic design for almost all of its vehicles. Kinetic design, characterized by flowing lines, makes a car look like it is moving even when standing still.
Some of those cars design cues are on the redesigned Ford Taurus. They are more prevalent on the Ford Fiesta r subcompact car that goes on sale this summer, a redesigned Ford Focus compact car slated for production this year, and even the Ford Explorer SUV that is to be revealed this summer.
"If you look at the design language on the new Explorer you will see a connection ...with kinetic design," Mays said.
Mays said he strives to design cars that people fall in love with for their looks, value and reliability.
"Love is really what you are looking for," Mays said.