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Ford Ranger design proves a challenge

Tough gig: Ford’s Asia Pacific design team leader for Ranger, David Dewitt said it was a challenge to maintain the rugged look of the pick-up with the facelift.

Renewing the Ford Ranger to retain the tough look is no mean feat

21 Aug 2015

NOT often do you hear a designer completely happy with a finished automotive product in the metal.

Compromise for the sake of engineering or costs can often rob some of these artisans of a curve, crease or vent that for them makes or breaks a design.

They may well be able to live with the reduction in wheel arch flare or wheel diameter to more realistic proportions, but David Dewitt is happy with the new-look Ranger.

Ford’s Asia Pacific design team leader for Ranger and its mechanically related Everest seven-seat SUV sibling, is happy with the result.

Standing in front of the Wildtrak flagship, the affable British-born Aussie (here more than 16 years) is shivering in the brisk winter morning air invading the mountains north-west of Melbourne, but he still smiles at the question.

“I always look at things moving forward, always considering what's modern and by the time the vehicle hits the road … you live in the future a bit, but personally I'm really happy with this one,” he said.

“It delivers a huge amount of change considering it's just the front end, it's a completely different feel to the outgoing vehicle, which I think still looks great,” he said.

To call the task ahead of the team, then led by Craig Metros (now back in the United States with Ford), with Dewitt his exterior design manager, a challenge is understating the importance.

Renewing the face of the brand’s then second-top-selling model in 2011 – it took top spot in the brand’s portfolio in 2013 and hasn’t relinquished it – was critical in brand sales terms.

It also had wider implications for the Ford Australia engineering and design team within the Blue Oval globally.

“What was challenging about the job of designing it was how do we improve on the 2011 Ranger, which was so well received and we were proud of it,” Mr Dewitt said.

“I also feel that what we have done is be successful in achieving our goal. We took what was great about the current car and dialled it up.”

A significantly bolder nose, with a broad power dome, retained yet re-executed ‘nostrils’ and the ‘waterfall’ grille down through the front bumper all, said Dewitt, visually emphasises the toughness.

“It was challenging to keep it as good-looking as it is. We knew we'd got it right – from there it's a process of refining it, getting the right weighting and balance.”

Mr Dewitt – the son of a panel-beater and sprayer at a Ford dealership near Essex who went on to work in the European design studio, including a stint at Volvo – said the team began designing the facelift not long after it went on showroom floors in late 2011.

That timing would suggest he’s working on next-gen product now, but he glides glibly by that query to return to the original question.

“The team had a lot of feedback and market research to understand the mindset.

They wanted a tough truck, with looks to reflect the ability,” he said.

“The Ford family DNA gave the design team a place from which to start, with the first priority being it should look like a Ford truck.

“We have a lot of dialogue amongst the different studios and that process is kind of exciting, it gives you a place to start. It's not a blank canvas and you have to start from scratch, you know you're designing a Ford and the values you have to adhere to,” he added.

“That's part of the challenge and fun of being a designer, you want to rise to it, finding a way to do it,” he said.

As reported by Goauto, Ford's Australian design and engineering team is already working on next-generation versions of T6 platform which will underpin the next Ranger and Everest.

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