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Aussie Ford Focus designer defends ‘derivative styling’

Grand designs: Bolder designs of the new Ford Focus were ditched in favour of a more conservative approach, according to the car’s designer.

Designer admits ‘safe’ styling for Ford Focus but says daring doesn’t work

Ford logo26 Jul 2018

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in FRANCE

THE designer of the latest Ford Focus has defended the car’s styling against claims that it is too derivative, saying that earlier and more daring design proposals did not rate well in market research clinics, and that the final result closely reflects his team’s original idea.
 
Speaking to Australian journalists at the fourth-generation Focus’ international launch in France last week, the Melbourne-raised, Germany-based Ford of Europe exterior design manager, Jordan Demkiw, admitted that there was some watering down of his original concept in order to satisfy disparate groups. 
 
“Largely it is very close to the vision of the car,” he said. “Things always get diluted or changed for a number of reasons, whether that’s management being uncomfortable about something, or it’s market research, and in the clinics, it gets a bad result.”
 
Joining Ford of Europe in 2012 after a brief stint at Ford Australia styling the final FGX Falcon, he began working on the C519 series Focus in Cologne soon after, beginning with the hatch and then including the sedan and wagon, with the designs all locked in towards the end of 2016.
 
“The first model that went to research was even more daring,” Mr Demkiw admitted. “It was the same thing but closer to the sketches. 
 
“But people just couldn’t digest it. They found the front end too odd-looking, with these wings that ran off the lamp that they didn’t understand why they were there. And then you have every other department in the company saying: ‘what are you going to do about that? Are you going to change that? You’ve seen the results’. You have to do something to appease people. Every car is like that.”
 
Mr Demkiw admitted that, if he had his way, he would follow the bolder visual path that most designers would naturally gravitate towards, but in the end it is a to and fro between designers, engineers and marketers.
 
“If it were up to myself, or most of the designers, I am sure (going bold and breaking new ground) is the answer you would most probably get,” he said. “With a huge company like Ford, they want to be very metric driven, and when you’re doing a $2b investment in a new car, they say ‘you know, we clinicked it (and the people have spoken).
 
“Certainly when you start (a fresh design) you are a lot more flexible. When you go into the initial clay models, and remember we moved the A-pillar back 94mm, in the first clay model, it was probably 150mm back, and the roof was probably 50mm lower, and the wheelarches were 20mm wider either side. So, you have to kind of push it out there to end up somewhere in the middle.
 
“It’s a haggle. We’ll say ‘we have to have that bonnet 100mm lower than the old car’ and we know there’s no way the engineers can do it, and in the end we’ll get it 50mm lower than in the old car.” 
 
Mr Demkiw said the current Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf were among the original design benchmarks, with the latest Opel/Holden Astra and Renault Megane also getting a look-in as they were introduced towards the end of the Focus’ design gestation in 2016.

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