DETROIT – During the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Detroit’s Cobo Hall is a very busy place. Media and other attendees rushing from press conference to press conference covering miles of carpet-covered concrete and frantically racing to meet a plethora of deadlines. This year, in Cobo’s newly renovated Grand River Ballroom; Ford provided a convenient and comfortable oasis for press day attendees in the first-of-its-kinds attraction: Behind the Blue Oval.
“This room was designed to be a genuine look at what goes on each and every day at Ford – from our labs, our design centers, we’ve brought pieces of Ford to the Ballroom,” said William Mattiace, a Ford product communications representative who played a key role in bringing the space to life. “Unlike ever before, we’ve invited local Detroit Metro Business (Shinola, Quicken Loans, etc.), university students (University of Michigan, College for Creative Studies, Univeristy of Detroit), enthusiast groups (Mustang Club, etc.).”
The 40,000 square-foot space decorated in a clean retro-mod fashion overlooked the Detroit River and provided media necessities, including charging stations, Wi-Fi, outlet-equipped tables, comfortable seating, food, refreshments and access to executives via a full agenda of roundtable discussions.
A large blue oval shaped outline hangs from the ceiling in the center of the space clearly designated the presentation area. Throughout the two-day media blitz, Ford hosted 13 roundtable discussions headlined by top executives. Topics included the Blueprint for Sustainability hosted by Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, an evening reception and exclusive screening of the Need for Speed movie complete with discussion from cast and crew, and a Town Hall discussion for media and local college students lead by Alan Mulally.
Dan Mazei, Ford car communications manager and Behind the Blue Oval coordinator, shared the purpose behind the roundtable discussions, “We wanted to offer open forums on our biggest stories; a venue where executives and other Ford experts could talk beyond what you might find in a press release or on a window sticker. We covered everything from the newly revealed F-150 to a partnership with an emergent fashion brand.”
In addition to accessing executives during each roundtable discussion, media were provided a list of times executives would be available for interviews in the Executive Lounge space within the Behind the Blue Oval experience. Set up with several tables and chairs and the Detroit River as a backdrop, the Lounge provide a perfect environment away from the noise of the show floor for interviews to be conducted.
Outside of the presentation oval, the four Ford pillars – Quality, Smart, Green and Safe – were represented in each of the four corners of the room in unique and highly interactive ways. A miniature clay model was being developed while virtual reality design demonstrations were conducted in the Quality corner.
In the Smart space, visitors witnessed the autonomous LIDAR Hybrid Fusion with its sensors spinning and picking up every feature of the space around the car. Everything the lasers sensed was shown in real time as it was projected onto a large screen television behind the car. The Smart space also housed a 3-D printing model and NFS game consoles featuring the latest driving games.
Over in the Green corner, Ford featured the Coca-Cola PlantBottle Fusion Energi and the C-MAX Solar Energi that was recently displayed in Las Vegas at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. A big hit in this area also was the Sustainability Café, which served up fresh organic snacks for attendees to enjoy.
Finally, representing the Safe pillar, a Ford Explorer Police Interceptor and the Ford Edge Concept, which debuted at the 2013 L.A. Auto Show both demonstrated new safety technologies. The Interceptor, for example, is able to detect a person approaching the vehicle from behind and alert the driver to the potential danger.
Several safety-related test suits also were on display in this space including the Drunk Driving suit, the pregnancy suit and the third-age suit. When worn, each suit simulates certain characteristics such as blurred vision for drunk driving, changes in body proportions and weight with the pregnancy suit and the aches, pains and tremors many folks experience as they mature with the third age suit. All of these are used by Ford safety engineers to ensure all Ford products live up to the needs of all customers.
“We wanted to push the boundaries and do something that hasn’t been done before,” said Mattiace. “Be inclusive of our surrounding community and everyone involved. Ford has a full family of vehicles and some great stories to tell – we feel this is the latest and greatest way of telling the world about Ford in a creative way.”