2010 TAURUS: "BLINK" AND FORD'S DESIGN PROCESS
IMAGES: Available at www.media.ford.com.
- Curb appeal – that first and lasting impression – is key to selling a house. Ford designers realize a car also has curb appeal.
- Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller "Blink" showed the power of snap judgments in decision-making. In 2005, as designers set out to rethink the 2010 Ford Taurus, they engaged more than 1,000 consumers to provide input during various stages of the design. They found that people form lasting opinions – the kinds of opinions that lead to a purchase – in the first moments they see a vehicle.
- Some call it the "5x5x5" concept:
- In the first five seconds, people notice a vehicle's lines, stance and roofline and look for those to convey a sense of motion and dynamism.
- In the next five seconds, they form an impression of the paint, the shape of the head- and taillamps, the height of the wheels and how they all fit together.
- In the last time segment, from five seconds to five minutes or more, consumers notice the details – from the shape of the door handles to the smooth touch of the coating to all the interior features – and form impressions about quality and craftsmanship.
A case in point: The Taurus' predecessor, the Ford Five Hundred, was judged by automotive critics as a solid, capable vehicle. Its shortcoming was a lack of head-snapping curb appeal. While Five Hundred owners generally loved the car, convincing consumers to give it a try proved challenging. So as a first step to re-inventing the Five Hundred as the 2010 Ford Taurus, the company conducted research deep into those first impressions – curb appeal.
Researchers listened, talked and even sketched with potential customers to find out what they notice, what matters and what influences their purchase decisions. The result is a car that melds art and science, blending design intuition and customer research to create a full-size sedan that grabs customers at first sight.
- The 2010 Ford Taurus was designed specifically for customers looking for "style and power," a shift from its predecessors that appealed to those looking for "practicality."
- The vehicle is a manifestation of "designer intuition" informed by consumer preference. By talking with consumers, offering them choices and evolving designs to reflect their input, designers produced not only a car they fell in love with, but one that is garnering positive reviews for design style and quality.
- Researchers started with concept clinics, exposing focus groups to four or five vehicles of the same color and with all brand identification removed. Participants were asked to choose a favorite vehicle and offer first impressions.
- Consumers who selected the 2010 Ford Taurus as their initial choice described the vehicle as sleek and sexy, having a modern fresh design, aerodynamic, fast lines, sporty but luxurious, classy, as well as sophisticated, stylish, distinctive and dynamic.
- Then, researchers progressively revealed more about each vehicle, including specifications, its brand or nameplate and finally the price. While there was some variation along the way, consumers usually stuck with their initial choice – showing the power of first impressions, or the "Blink" effect.
- Through conversations with focus group participants, designers made significant adjustments to the design:
- Instrument panel and console – People preferred a more dramatic curve.
- Texture and material – Some preferred a warm, wood-filled interior, others liked a cool, technical environment; Ford made both interiors available.
- Heightened center stack sweep of 38 degrees – People preferred a steeper slope in the instrument panel between the two front seats.
- Lower roof line – Evolved in response to consumer input and preference.
- Larger "hot" wheels, specifically 17-, 18- and 19-inch Painted Sparkle Silver Aluminum wheels – Made available in response to consumers' obvious preference (20-inch wheels are included with Taurus SHO Performance Package).
"Our goal for Taurus development was to induce 'sedan envy.' The emotional response we wanted was 'I have to have it.' It used to be about developing a competent product with the best package. That's not enough. We knew this vehicle had to have that curb appeal… this thing had to be smokin' hot."
– Amy Marentic,
Platform manager, product development
"We've found that typically consumers tend to stay with their first impressions. What they like in the beginning is usually what they like in the end."
– Randall Janisch,
Research manager, product development
"What is universally drop-dead gorgeous? In the automotive sense, we know it's wide, low and long. A vehicle has to have presence. So as designers, what we need to do is take that knowledge and bring it to life."
– Earl Lucas,
Exterior design manager, 2010 Ford Taurus
"People want to look good. They want something they look good in – like in their wardrobe. You're not going to buy an outfit that makes you look and feel bad. It's the same thing with vehicles. And now there are so many choices out there. Vanilla doesn't cut it anymore."
– Lon Zaback,
Interior design manager, 2010 Ford Taurus
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.