Digital Tools Expedite Development Of 2010 Ford Taurus, Saving Time, Money; Enhancing Creativity
* New 2010 Taurus is the first Ford vehicle program to conduct digital marketing research, helping deliver the new Taurus 12 months sooner while cutting research costs by nearly 50 percent
* High-quality digital renderings replace physical models in research phase, providing Ford more flexibility in research with less variability
DEARBORN, Mich. – The car glides from the garage area, coming to a smooth stop on a round platform. It turns slowly, offering viewers a detailed, 360-degree look at every angle, line and curve. On the 25-foot screen, the image is crisp and clear, highlighting even the merest glimmer of the metallic flakes in the paint.
It’s picture-perfect, but it’s no photo. It’s not even a real car. It’s actually a high-quality, digital animation of the vehicle, part of the high-tech process Ford uses to create, design and conduct market research on its newest vehicle offerings. For Ford’s flagship 2010 Taurus – the first Ford product program to conduct digital market research – the use of digital tools throughout the development process provided a savings of both time and money.
“The team was charged to deliver the new Taurus one year sooner than planned, so everyone – from Design, Engineering, Manufacturing and Marketing – signed on for the challenge,” said Moray Callum, Ford executive director, Design. “Digital tools were certainly a big part of that.” Digital tools also provided another benefit – a new pictorial language everyone could embrace. “The digital process really has become a unifying language for the organization,” said Jeff Nowak, chief designer, Studio 2000X. “All groups now can communicate with a common, unified vision.”
It’s a vision that was highly anticipated, eagerly received by the public and recognized by media. The 2010 Ford Taurus, heralded for its powerfully sculpted exterior, class-leading technologies and an interior that rivals premium sedans, has set the standard for exceptional craftsmanship at a reasonable price. At the North American International Auto Show, AutoWeek magazine named the 2010 Ford Taurus “Most Significant” vehicle of the show.
Design technology digitizes
In the past, designers used pencil and paper to sketch prototypes; physical models – usually sculpted from clay – were created and re-created as the vehicle developed and changed. Digital work has added another powerful exploration tool to the designer’s palette, Nowak said.
“Working digitally, one has an advanced ability to experiment; you can magnify the creative potential,” he explained. “Our digital process starts from the very beginning. We’ve converted all of our analog tools – our paints, markers and brushes – and we literally now sketch digitally. So we can make dynamic changes to our sketches, make changes on the fly, do all those things you couldn’t do back in the day with a sketch on the wall. Our experimental capability has been empowered by digital design.”
Now, Nowak said, with designers and digital sculptors working with advanced modeling software, the possibilities continue to expand. “It’s very powerful,” he said. “And it’s a great way to communicate visually across the entire organization.”
The benefits continue during the market research phase, said Christine Stasiw Lazarchuk, director of Global Market Research.
“Market research really is important in getting customer input into each phase of the product development process,” she said. “When we did customer research in the past, depending on the development phase, we would use either 2-D photos or actually would have the properties built. Working with 2-D photos did not provide the customer a visual that defined the lines and depth of the design. Having properties built for research and shipping them to market research clinics was extremely costly.”
A better visual
Not only has digitalization increased efficiency and decreased cost – by about 50 percent on the Taurus program alone – it also enhances the process, Lazarchuk said. Seeing the test vehicle on a 25-foot screen allows the customer to better evaluate the options and offer opinions.
Eliminating the physical model also ends inconsistencies, she said, particularly when the theme is being shown against a competitor’s product. When both properties are digitized, the distractions are minimized, and the customer can focus on the design.
As Ford continues to enhance its global portfolio, the digital process will help smooth the way forward.
“A design, whether it’s created in Europe, Asia Pacific or America, has to be researched around the world,” said Callum. “That could be Brazil, for example – it could be Shanghai, Milan or Atlanta. You don’t have to carry around these three-dimensional properties. Now, market research can occur on multiple continents in one day or one week. We’re cutting days and dollars out of the whole process.”
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 201,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
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