Ford is revealing more about its vision for a new global small car family at Auto Guangzhou. Ford today revealed the second Verve Concept – a four-door notchback. The dynamic Ford Verve Concept four-door notchback is a star of the fifth annual Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition. The fact that Ford staged the global reveal of the four-door Verve Concept at Guangzhou signals the importance of Asia in Ford’s global plans.
Sporty and coupe-like, the Verve Concept notchback provides a very clear vision about Ford’s future small car design direction. The three-door hatchback Verve Concept was a star of the recent Frankfurt Motor Show in Europe, and it too is also under the spotlights at Guangzhou.
Ford will unveil the third and last Verve Concept in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
“With this new four-door Verve Concept, the picture of Ford’s big plans for the small-car segment is becoming clearer,” said Phil Spender, Chief Operation Officer of Ford Motor (China) Ltd. “Our future small car is being developed as a global car. It will be designed in Europe, engineered in Germany and manufactured globally. These two Verve Concepts demonstrate how confident Ford is in its direction and its appeal to consumers here in China.”
Ford’s European design team created the Verve Concepts, which successfully apply Ford’s kinetic design philosophy for the first time to a small car. The two Verve Concepts clearly display a European flair and premium touches not expected in this segment.
Once all have been revealed, the trilogy of Verve concept cars will provide an advanced indication of Ford’s design vision well in advance of the production models. This approach is similar to the way in which the iosis Concept preceded the new Ford Mondeo.
Side by side in Guangzhou, the two Verve Concepts bring the latest wave of Ford’s kinetic design to the heart of Asia. Their colours are inspired by the world of fashion; the regal frosted grape of the new Verve Concept four-door notchback complements the bold magenta of the Frankfurt three-door hatchback like a well-coordinated ensemble.
“First it was the hatchback and now a very exciting and dynamic notchback,” said the father of kinetic design, Martin Smith, Ford’s Executive Director of European Design. “Looking at these concepts together, you can just imagine how exciting the successor to the Ford Fiesta will be when it hits the market.”
Public Response in Guangzhou
Ford designers, buoyed by the enthusiastic reaction in Europe to the first Verve Concept, will be carefully studying reactions to the new notchback by Chinese consumers.
Ford European design chief Smith said, “These Verve Concepts are a dynamic first public expression directionally of some of the thinking that will be contributing to the design DNA of our next-generation products. At this stage, we have had the freedom to be radically innovative, but I’m confident about the realistic possibilities for kinetic design to embrace this segment of vehicles.”
The latest Verve Concept builds on the very distinctive look of its hatchback sibling. These two concept vehicles share strong front-end graphics that, with the advent of the new Mondeo, are now becoming recognised as the bold, new face of Ford.
The notchback body form of the new concept family is linked with the hatchback through the use of form language composed of dynamic lines and full surfaces – the signature of kinetic design.
The new notchback execution brings new hints about Ford’s kinetic design approach to sedan variants of its future small car family.
Smith’s exterior design team – led by European Exterior Chief Designer Stefan Lamm – took full advantage of the notchback shape to stretch the kinetic design elements and create a very sleek and dynamically poised personality.
The notchback displays a sleek, pillarless side window profile providing a bold graphic statement, along with strongly defined wheel arches that communicate tension and muscularity. Its dramatic C-pillar shape contributes to this feeling of dynamism, while the rear body and decklid shapes coherently build on the toned and fit kinetic design look with full surfaces and bold lines.
As any top fashion model on the catwalk, Guangzhou’s new Verve Concept is dressed well. From its seductive colour to the smallest detail, Verve Concept evokes an air of premium quality not usually found in the small-car segment.
Despite the functional differences with the hatchback shape, the notchback’s rear design clearly displays the same kinetic design influences.
The rear glass of the Verve notchback is shaped to correspond with the forms of the high-mounted, two-piece tail lamps. This unique and premium execution, first seen on the new Mondeo, is now translated into a smaller car.
A dark chrome diffuser at the lower bumper is consistent with the design of the hatchback but shaped specifically for the notchback design.
Like its sibling, the notchback Verve’s face is bold and sporty, yet friendly and engaging. The front is dominated by a large, inverted trapezoidal lower grille and a large Ford oval badge centred in the compact upper grille opening.
The lower grille features a strong eggcrate graphic; its vertical and horizontal blades bonded by an array of intriguing ‘bullet’ shapes. The lower grille and badge treatment are the design team’s signature elements to communicate the Ford design DNA in future products.
The bonnet features highly sculpted dynamic forms. This form treatment combines with the more pronounced, rearward-stretching head lamp units – inspired by Mondeo – to give the face of the Verve a friendly, open and inviting personality. The prominent headlamps feature two projector beams and a light-emitting diode (LED) array.
The two Verve Concepts share a distinctive 18-inch, 12-spoke, two-piece alloy wheel design that lends more drama to the car. The wheels have a precise, jewel-like feel to their design. Both Verve Concepts’ are wearing low-profile tyres featuring a sidewall stripe that complements the exterior body colour.
“With a small car, for example a B-segment car compared to a larger car, we believe we can play up – or amplify – key elements of the kinetic design form language,” Lamm said. “It’s not just a matter of copy-and-paste from one vehicle segment to another but rather how to interpret the philosophy for each individual car. You can clearly see this when you compare the larger iosis Concept and this new project.”
Exploring the Inner Kinetic
The interior of the Verve Concept family is as dramatic as is its exterior. From boldly shaped surfaces and confident use of rich colours and enticing materials, the Verve Concept has a playful sense of sophistication and fashion. It also pioneers new technologies that someday may be a production reality.
As Ford designers explored the possibilities for a future Ford small car, the wide latitude they were given helped them focus on applying the tenets of kinetic design to the interior. The result is a Verve Concept which explores a completely new direction for small cars. The architecture of the instrument panel with sensuous curves and full shapes make a typical, upright centre stack design seem distinctly old fashioned.
“This is a quantum leap in bringing kinetic design into interior design,” said Niko Vidakovic, Chief Interior Designer, Ford of Europe. “This type of visual innovation, linking the form language of the interior so strongly with the exterior, is something we believe no other company is doing.”
Prominent, full forms characterises the upper instrument panel, created by the hands of Ford interior designer Tiago Diaz and supervisor Ernst Reim. Full surfaces and flowing contours on interior elements – especially the instrument panel and door panels – visually echo the exterior’s kinetic design. These elements combine to envelop the vehicle’s occupants and to contrast with the airiness provided by the panoramic glass roof.
New Aesthetic Inspired by Mobile Phones
The Verve Concept was designed for the generation that grew up with mobile phones.
The centre stack is a principal feature of the interior. Aesthetically, it follows the contours of the instrument panel, rising to frame a large-screen Ford Convers+ system incorporated in the upper dash. The Ford Convers+ system incorporated in the Verve Concept is the latest-generation Human Machine Interface (HMI) recently introduced in the Ford Mondeo. This technology alone indicates the level of sophistication incorporated in this small-car vision.
Functionally, a key element of the centre stack design is the decoupling of the traditional elements of the entertainment system – the screen, control elements and the electronics. Separating these elements allowed designers to place controls and buttons for optimal ergonomic positioning in a design that resembles the logic of a mobile phone.
This new approach enables the Verve Concepts to introduce a completely new aesthetic – a new approach to the form and function of interacting with underlying technologies. The unique architecture also embraces other key systems including navigation and in-car phone controls.
Every button and switch was crafted with the kind of attention to detail that characterises good mobile phone designs. This system philosophy gives the centre stack a different feel than that of traditional automotive switchgear.
“A new generation of buyers raised with mobile electronic devices would feel right at home in this new automotive interior, one that exceeds the standards typical in the small-car segment,” said Vidakovic.
Verve Concept’s heating/ventilation controls – highlighted in a lozenge shape at the midpoint of the centre stack – feature large twist dials.
The centre stack structure flows into a centre console to provide storage areas, including a tray for a mobile phone or MP3 player as well as a large area near the handbrake for a purse or shoulder bag.
“The centre stack is like the art gallery of the car,” Vidakovic said. “The combination of the sculpture of the upper instrument panel, the rich interior colours and materials and the jewellery-like brightwork is very distinctive.”
The primary gauges – speedometer and rev counter – are uniquely framed by binocular-shaped, short tunnels of brightwork which complement the centre stack. In effect, they contrast beautifully with the rich interior colours.
Verve Concept’s steering wheel – its crash pad, sculpted of soft-feel material and framed in brightwork – provides a touch-and-see centrepiece for the Ford oval badge. The left and right spokes of the three-spoke design incorporate the toggle controls for the HMI system.
Rich, Harmonious Colors
Verve Concept conveys a cool, technical interior feel. The interior colors and materials combining to represent a vision for the future interpretation of Ford’s Titanium interior, according to Ruth Pauli, Chief Designer, Colors and Trims, Ford of Europe.
“Colours and materials play an important role in emotionalising our products,” Pauli said. “With the Verve Concept notchback revealed at Guangzhou, we are striving for a very precise expression of a certain style. Tones of grey and silver express elegance and a technical feel that contrasts with the more expressive colours of the Frankfurt concept.”
Interior materials used by Pauli and colour and trim specialist Ulrike Dahm include:
- The upper instrument panel finished in Fairland dark silver matte leather
- Verve Concept’s distinctive centre console is finished in an Optimum Aluminum grey
- Syracuse dark anthracite grey leather along the lower section of the instrument panel completes the portfolio of tones
- A strip of mood illumination has been incorporated above the glove box to provide an interesting visual accent. (Designers envision the possibility that the colour and intensity of this lighting could be customer-chosen should this feature be incorporated in a future production model)
Small elements of the interior – even control stalks on the steering column – reflect an attention to detail from the team inspired by luxury goods such as cosmetics. Such small packaging requires the precise execution of every detail and the right expression, tonal quality and saturation of colours.
“Together, these elements create a strong statement of consistency, harmony and quality that makes the Verve Concept such a cohesive design statement,” Pauli said. “It is this cohesiveness that will make this concept appeal to a modern, fashion-aware audience.”