It started with the 2005 Mustang – an industry-first, color-configurable instrument panel. The ultimate in personalization, Mustang owners could change the dashboard lighting at the touch of a button to create more than 125 different colors to suit their mood, outfit or whim.

Color-configurable instrument panel-Ford Focus
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Now, the 2008 Ford Focus is getting into the act with optional interior ambient lighting. Only this time, the new Focus takes a slightly different approach by putting the customizable light inside the cup holders and in the front and rear foot wells. (On the dashboard and instrument panel, the 2008 Focus has new ice blue lighting that does not change.)

“The idea was to let owners give the car its own mood,” says Philip Smoker, 2008 Focus Product Marketing Manager. “Customizable ambient light gives the interior a whole different look and keeps it fresh. A clear bottle of water inside the cup holder with a blue light going through it looks very cool.”

Color-configurable instrument panel-Ford Focus
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The nighttime ambient light can be seven different colors: red, orange, blue, indigo, violet, green and yellow. The driver or front-seat passenger can adjust the light with a switch that cycles through the colors.

“The overall trend is differentiation, what with different audio systems, spoilers, wheels, trim and colors,” says Smoker. “We’re playing a role in that by letting customers pick their own interior color at night and change it whenever they want.”

Smoker says customizable and unique interior light inside cars and trucks is an emerging trend. According to a recent survey, over 90 percent of vehicle consumers said they would be interested in unique lighting to enhance the appearance of their vehicle’s interior. And almost 50 percent said they were willing to pay as much as $200 for ambient lighting options.

Color-configurable instrument panel-Ford Focus
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In addition to the Mustang’s dashboard and the Focus’s cup holders and foot wells, Smoker says a possible next step may be lighted scuff plates that illuminate when the doors open. More locations that could get special lighting in the future include door and grab handles, console bins and storage areas. Designers might use the light to bring attention to design features or for functional reasons, as in helping passengers read a map at night. Technology issues come into play, too, with electroluminescent, light-emitting diodes (LED) or incandescent lighting systems available at different price points.

Smoker says that right now, with manufacturers producing upwards of 150,000 of any particular model, vehicle differentiation is still the key: “The interior ambient light inside the 2008 Focus gives owners the chance to make the car their own.”

Color-configurable instrument panel-Ford Focus
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