Ford looks into design’s future

Peter Horbury, Ford’s executive director of design for North America, says smaller and more sustainable cars will be the way of the future.

He says designing car interiors will be about providing ‘guilt-free luxury’, with interiordesigners playing a huge role in shaping this development. ‘No one wants to suffer to go Green,’ he says.

Horbury cites the design of the new Ford Lincoln, for which vegetable dyes are used in the tanning process of its leather interiors rather than chromium. He also describes a Ford car at the Detroit Motor Show at the beginning of the year, which had windows made from recycled drinks bottles and banana leaves for carpet.

The wood being used in Lincoln MKS models is recycled, while the Ford Escape uses 100 per cent recycled materials. ‘A sustainable vehicle does not have to be an electric or hybrid model, it can be one whose parts can be reused,’ he says.

Smaller cars will become increasingly popular, he predicts. The Mini is an example of a small car currently in vogue in the US, while Ford’s new model, Fiesta, goes on sale in the UK in November.

Despite being compact, it has a large interior. He says he is seeing a phase developing in America where young people, who are used to minute designs in iPods, MP3 players and mobile phones, view small cars as being on trend.

From a sustainability point of view, small cars are beneficial because of their reduced weight. According to Horbury, designers within Ford’s 550 strong US team are involved in making even big models, such as the F-150, more aerodynamic. Areas concentrated on include the angle of the wing mirror, and decreasing the rolling resistance of the tyres.

The design emphasis in motors is now shifting towards interiors, he says, and there will be a great competitive advantage for the auto maker, which creates interior spaces that can be used to capture the hearts of new buyers. Part of Horbury’s remit includes helping to develop Ford’s interiors.

He highlights the importance of interior design to cars and says, ‘As vehicle owners, we spend the majority of our time inside the vehicle, and while exterior styling might get customers off the street and into the showroom, it is the interiors that will really seal the deal.’

He believes we are living in a world where car manufacturers have to consider interior design because of the influence of designers such as Terence Conran whose high profile work has made interior design part of the typical consumer’s mindset.

Until his latest appointment with Ford in 2004, Horbury was executive director of design for Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, responsible for overseeing the future product design strategy and design processes for Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.

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