Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beijing Motor Show 2010 - Highlights

Ford Start concept
Ford's Start concept was one of the undeniable stars of Auto China this year. A diminutive five-seat premium car, roughly the size of a Mini, the concept surprised many with its minimalistic design and thoughtful details. Speaking with Freeman Thomas, Design Director at Ford's California-based Strategic Concept Group, CDN learned that the car was born out of an unconventional approach: it was actually modeled before being reversed into sketches.

The clean, timeless design was inspired by the nautilus shell as well as the rounded designs of the Alfa Romeo Zagato SZ and the Porsche 356 Speedster (owned by Thomas himself): "We wanted the car to be soft and endearing," Thomas said. "We love round shapes."

The resulting design is appealing, with a simple yet elegant surface and a friendly demeanor, but it is also a pragmatic and functional vehicle. Simple trim pieces, smooth door handles and a new interpretation of the front grille are joined by slender head- and taillamps with a lattice theme running through them, an element repeated in the C-pillar. Another key element in the brief was that the car had to be lightweight; this is where the idea for the small trunk – instead of the expected hatch – and the 'floating' B-pillar came from. "We needed the structure but we wanted it to float to make it visually lighter," shared Thomas.

A strong shoulder that blends into the surrounding surface aft of the rear wheel is also an interesting element of the design, fading out like a brush stroke on the bodyside, as is the well-proportioned matte aluminum trim that connects and defines the windscreen, DLO and backlight.

The interior also presents interesting features worth mentioning, such as the IP that sits on top of the dash so it can be easily adapted for left- and right-hand drive applications, and the floating front seats that mimic the curve of those on the 356. The rear seat features an unbroken curvature, enabling rear passengers to sit in a lounge-like space, amplifying comfort levels