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The 10 Hottest Designers: Why The Auto Industry Will Come Back Strong

Never underestimate the power of a good design(er) to get them back in the showroom.

Zones



The Designing The Romance Of The Taurus

When the flagship model for Ford was being created, the designers worked to capture some of the magic of the original Taurus, but to create a car that people could have serious affection for.

Lon Zaback, Ford design manager, who is responsible for the interior design of the 2010 Ford Taurus, says that one of the things that the entire design team did when developing the vehicle was to "recapture the romance." On the one hand, this is about immediate appeal. Curb appeal. They wanted to make a car that is, as he puts it, "not just competent, but beautiful. Drop-dead gorgeous." They wanted to create a car that has sex appeal, even though first and foremost, the Taurus, as Frank Davis, Ford executive director, Product Development, explains, the Taurus is Ford's "flagship sedan" a family car that is, in effect, "a second home on wheels." Just because it's functional and has a vast assortment of features* that aren't offered by cars that are in the luxury arena or are offered and come along with a significantly higher car payment (the base price for the entry SE is $25,995; the base for the top-of-the-line SHO is $37,995; both prices include $825 for destination and delivery), doesn't mean that the car can't be beautiful.

But there is another aspect to this "recapture the romance." It goes back, Zaback says, to the original, 1986 Taurus, the car that revolutionized—and that is not too strong a word—not only the design language for vehicles that would follow from competitive manufacturers, but which firmly put the Blue Oval at the forefront of the domestic vehicle manufacturers. In the description of the car in the collection at The Henry Ford Museum, the curators write that it is "probably one of the two most significant American automobiles of the 1980s (the other is the Chrysler Corp. minivan)." And the designers of the 2010 Taurus wanted to get back to that.
Earl Lucas, Taurus exterior design manager, talks about the importance of music in the studio when the car was being created. About how the designers had iPods cranking, listening to the likes of Citizen Cope, Kem, Alicia Keyes, and Anthony Hamilton. "Like all designers, we have shapes in our heads," Lucas says.
 
"It is about getting the shapes out of our heads." Yes, he says, they wanted to develop an exterior design that is "athletic, sculpted, muscular." They wanted to create a car that raised the bar on what a family car could be, but to do it in such a way that was different from what had come before and different from the Taurus's platform sibling, the Lincoln MKS: "Not premium like Lincoln, but more responsible, like Ford." Yet significantly different. Pete Reyes, Taurus chief engineer, recalls that when he was being recruited from the Ford Truck team (his previous program had been the '08 Super Duty), he was taken into the studio where he was shown the clay models and sketches. His reaction: "It doesn't look like a Ford." Meaning this was a car that was going in a new direction.
 
Lucas says there are elements of earlier Ford models—he cites, for example, the muscularity of the second-generation Taurus ('92 to '95) and the tail lamps from the 2007 Ford Interceptor concept car—but that the current car is meant to have a freshness and yet a series of surfaces that will allow it to have longevity.
 

When Earl Lucas talks about the musicians he and his colleagues were listening to, there is also something of this authenticity. He points out, for example, that Anthony Hamilton has a lisp in his voice. Which is something that one might not associate with the sort of ‘audio perfection' that people might be used to.One of the characteristics of the design of the 2010 Taurus, both the interior and exterior, is authenticity. Lon Zaback talks about the process that was used to design what appear to be stitched inserts in the doors. To develop it, they took doors and wrapped them in stitched leather, then cast the doors. Then cold nickel female molds were developed, and then sprayed polyurethane was used to create the surface. Each door was done individually. There is visible roping texture and cross stitching. Zaback says that this was somewhat controversial during the development program. "Each door has its own idiosyncrasy. If you look at it, it's not perfect. It's not the ‘digital perfection' that the engineers were looking for." It, in effect, not only has the richness that would be associated with hand-stitched door inserts, but it also, in effect, shows the hand of the craftsman.
It is not about introducing flaws. It is about introducing a sense of the real. The true. The individual. The sort of thing that you could conceivably fall in love with.
*The 10 class-exclusive technologies in the Taurus are:
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Collision warning with brake support
  • Blind spot information system
  • Cross traffic alert
  • MyKey
  • SecuriCode keyless entry keypad
  • Voice-activated navigation with Sirius Travel Link
  • SYNC with traffic, directions and information
  • Multi-Contour seats with Active Motion
  • Easy Fuel capless fuel filler