MILAN, Italy – Ford designers employed trend-spotting on a global scale to ensure the all-new Kuga meets the needs of the customers – wherever they are in the world.
Ford experts identified the varied and often conflicting worldwide tastes to deliver cross-continental appeal for the company’s first global compact SUV. This included reconciling the popularity of larger vehicles in North America with a European preference for more compact cars; and accommodating the popularity of lighter interior materials in Asia with a tendency for European buyers to go for darker shades.
It also meant employing colour, design and spatial solutions to create the finished product as well as ensuring a degree of market-specific customisation. The inspiration for trim and colour palettes came from sources as diverse as climbing shoes, make-up, jewellery and furnishings.
Models are then offered on a regional basis to ensure the design and colours correspond to customer demand.
“Great design can turn an object that you need to have, into an object you love,” said Chris Bird, design director, Ford of Europe, who is responsible for colour, material and vehicle personalisation. “That is why we put so much thought and feeling into cars like Kuga, making them appealing and relevant no matter where our customers are.
“For example, size-perception is different in each region,” he added. “More customers in Europe and Asia now choose compact SUVs as an alternative to conventional niche products like coupes. In North America there is a growing trend to downsize, but our customers there still want to combine style and space, so it’s important to get that balance.
“We made this work by collaborating closely with our engineering colleagues on details including getting the size of the wheels just right and incorporating Ford’s kinetic design in the exterior dimensions.”
The positive impact of a global approach can be seen from the increased focus on the experience of rear seat passengers, directly influenced by the discovery that smaller vehicles are used more for chauffeuring in China than in Europe and North America. Colour preference too is a source of regional difference.
“In Asia, lighter interiors are more desirable,” said Ulrike Dahm, colour and trim supervisor, Ford of Europe, who specialises in Asian markets. “Many people live in huge cities where space is at a premium, so having a light and airy interior is seen as luxurious. In Europe, colours and trim take a lot of influence from the tech industry and are generally darker. Gloss black is a popular choice.”
The design team has to ensure colour and trim palettes are broad enough to meet regional tastes, fit Ford’s design DNA, and are concise enough to be production and cost efficient. But this is no barrier to creativity.
“Influences for colours and materials come from all sources, from fashion and furnishings to make-up and jewellery,” said Serife Celebi, colour and material design supervisor, Ford of Europe. “I always talk about trainers, but if you look at the textures and colours used in climbing shoes, they’re really fantastic.”
All-new Ford Kuga will launch with a global colour called Ginger Ale, a subtle green hue to reflect its active outdoor capabilities, but with rich, sophisticated tones to harmonise with the slick urban environment where many models will find a home.
“Choosing the right colours is crucial, wherever the car is being sold,” Celebi said. “Ginger Ale is stylish enough to suit urban landscapes across the world and still have a playful edge. Developing colours that suit the character of a vehicle is much like knowing what colours suit your body shape.”
The Kuga’s sleek new silhouette has seen Ford respond to awareness customers around the world are becoming both more demanding and more aware of design. Erika Tsubaki, design supervisor, Ford of Europe, ensures the company identifies and responds to changes in behaviour by acting as a “trend scout”.
“Customers everywhere are more design-savvy now and recognize the importance of a car that looks more aerodynamic and efficient,” said Tsubaki. “But they’re not just satisfied with ‘good enough’. It has to be stylish as well as affordable. Independent of region, the car must also fulfill the purposes that they need it to.”