Ford Design Director for the Americas, Chistopher Svensson, on Trends in Automotive Design

Last month, we published a story about changes within Ford’s design organization, and the appointment of Chistopher Svensson to the role of Design Director, The Americas. We now bring you part two of our exclusive interview with Svensson where — without divulging Ford’s future product plans — he shares his views on the design trends currently taking place in the automotive landscape.

Exterior Design
“Without sort of laying our cards on the table, I think detail execution has become something everyone really focuses on right now. I think customers’ expectations of how we as automotive designers execute details, is far greater than it ever has been.

“What you don’t want is the guy that has the Samsung or the iPhone in his pocket to get into a product and feel shortchanged.”

“Just take headlamps, for example. You can go back five years and we used to put little bulbs in the headlamps and pretty much that was about it. You look at headlights now and the technology we have in headlights is just phenomenal. I think that’s what people expect. They walk around with iPhones that are beautifully executed. The Samsungs of the world — gorgeous pieces of product design that they have sitting in their pockets.

“I think that will play a major part of automotive design exteriors as we move forward. Whether technologies will drive different solutions than we have right now today, probably, in terms of detail execution. Whether that becomes to some extent the focal point rather than a secondary element, could be, I’m not sure. But that’s obviously a trend that is driving all of the automotive manufacturers to rethink their technologies and their capabilities in these areas.”

Interior Design
“Detail execution is key. People’s expectations of craftsmanship and quality have been exceeded with some of the products that are readily available to consumers today. We as automotive designers are really influenced by that and have to understand how we can achieve those similar levels of execution and quality in craftsmanship in the products that we do.

“We’re all trying to push quality, but there are limitations within the boundaries of what we can achieve.”

“What you don’t want is the guy that has the Samsung or the iPhone in his pocket to get into a product and feel shortchanged. He’s invested a lot of money in the product that he’s going to use to get from A to B, he wants it to feel as good as, if not better than, some of the other products that he’s purchased.”

“If you look at a product like the F-150 or the Mustang, and you go back 10, 15 years, and you look at the quality of the products that we had then, it’s night and day in terms of how we’ve moved forward.

“We strive to achieve ultimate quality, but there are limitations just because of our manufacturing processes and the costs involved in what we do. We strive to achieve but sometimes it’s not always achievable. And I think that ethos was taken from the likes of J and I think that’s still important and critical.

“Creativity as well — making something appealing and sexy and desirable. Quality should be a given to some extent even though we’re pushing hard on it and craftsmanship, but desirability I think is really key. People really need to want to buy our products because they find them sexy or appealing or functionally they just over deliver what people’s expectations were.

“Desirability is key to moving forward.”


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