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Top U.S. car designers tell WardsAuto more emphasis is being placed on styling because auto makers already offer good quality and fuel economy.
J Mays with Ford Evos concept that inspired new Fusion styling.
Design long has played an important role in the success of auto makers, from the dramatic tailfins of the ’59 Cadillac Eldorado to the roundish, utilitarian look of the rear-engineBeetle.
But as aerodynamics became more a factor in fuel economy, and consumers began gravitating toward better quality, vehicle design no longer had a starring role, watered down so much that most people had difficulty distinguishing aCamry from a Chevrolet Malibu.
Today, most light vehicles boast above-average fuel economy and top-notch quality, allowing styling to return to the forefront as the great differentiator, top automotive designers tell WardsAuto. More and more, auto makers are relying on cutting-edge exteriors to move their mainstream products in an increasingly crowded market.
A good example is the all-new ’13Fusion midsize sedan, heralded by critics for its -inspired fascia and sleek profile. Fusion sales jumped 17.7% in the year’s first half, compared with year-ago, to 161,146 units, according to WardsAuto data.
J Mays,group vice president-design, says the Fusion, styled to appear more expensive than it is, represents the new face of Ford.
“For Fusion, we wanted a visible, efficient design,” he says. “We also wanted a refined surface language, which is hopefully apparent. It sends a strong signal (as an) aspirational vehicle.”
The Fusion’s striking design is creating opportunities for Ford in markets where it traditionally has struggled, such as fashion-conscious California and the buttoned-up East Coast. Ford says Fusion sales in California through May soared 115%, which Mays says signifies “not only are we selling a lot of cars, but to the right people.”