Claude Lobo, design director at Ford's small-vehicle center in Europe, led design work on the Focus, the Escort successor. He was interviewed at the Geneva auto show by Georg Auer of Automotive News Europe.
How is the Focus different from your previous world car?
Mondeo was not really a landmark in the history of design. It is a well-built car but design-wise it is nowhere. Good technology in a bad wrapper. We had a different management when it was laid down. Perhaps they lacked courage to create something more advanced or did not trust Ford as a leading car company.
How was New Edge design born?
New Edge was developed in Europe. It is a design development and philosophy to simplify production while giving the cars a significant character and better quality.
The production people had trouble keeping the sheet metal in place in their presses so we design people said, 1/8Let us add a line here and there. That will help.'
So New Edge did not originate in a studio but in the press shop together with the construction people. We designers spend a lot of time with production people.
How do you define it?
New Edge stands for precision, functionality and simplicity. But New Edge has nothing to do with the edge of a table or something like that. It means having an edge on design, being the best, leading the pack.
Other companies are now bringing out Edge cars
Some of our competitors have misunderstood New Edge and now bring out cars with a lot of sharp edges. But that is not our idea.
Can a director of design really influence the final design, given all the regional wishes?
That is what he is paid for to do. The director of design is responsible for communicating his vision of the design. He must be the driving force to bring it to realization. He has to be a filter but not an autocrat and he should have a long leash. He should give a lot of freedom, especially to his younger staffers.
How does a design director communicate his vision to top management?
There has to be full cooperation between top management and the design director, a great amount of trust in one another. Otherwise you will shy away from good, modern, advanced solutions.
If you want to go the safe way in our business, you cannot advance. If the product is good it will sell well all around the world, just as good music, well played, will sell well everywhere.