March 3, 2005 A surprise star headlined the Focus collection at the Ford Australia 2005 Melbourne International Motor Show stand today - a concept car inspired by the all-new Ford Focus. Sitting alongside the all-new Ford Focus production range making its Australian debut in Melbourne, the Focus Vignale Concept explores the potential for future Focus derivatives. The overwhelming positive response to the Vignale Concept at the Paris Motor Show led to the early confirmation of a production model, due in late 2006. "We'll be watching closely to see if it receives a similar reaction here in Melbourne." ," said Ford Australia President Tom Gorman.
FORD LIFTS THE LID ON CONCEPT CARS
The European connection
The Focus Vignale Concept takes its inspiration and name from the renowned Italian designer, Alfredo Vignale (1913 - 1969), who has an historical connection with Ford's European design heritage.
His Carrozzeria Vignale company produced many stylish, coach-built sports cars during the 1950's and 1960's and joined Ford Motor Company's De Tomaso Automobili in 1969.
The Focus Vignale Concept is actually two cars in one - ideal for changing moods and environments. Regardless of the weather, the Focus Vignale Concept conveys a strong emotional appeal that Ford designers believe will inspire longing and a touch of envy. As a stylish and sporty coupe that is just as appealing in autumn and winter months, the car brings elegance combined with rational attributes of luxury, comfort and safety.
Its profile is dynamic and distinctive, and promises the rewarding driving experience that comes as standard in all Ford cars.
Yet at the push of a button, the coupe transforms effortlessly into an open-top convertible. Its bootlid silently tilts open and its retractable hardtop folds backward to stow cleanly in the boot, morphing the vehicle to inspire carefree emotions of open-top, wind-in-the-hair motoring.
As the car assumes its open-top role, the quality of craftsmanship and premium materials is clearly evident, highlighted by well-executed design touches inspired by the heyday of the European sports car.
Just one of these design facets in the Focus Vignale Concept's sweeping profile is the door handle. A modern execution of designs found in Alfredo Vignale's spyders from the Sixties, it is elegantly sculpted in a lozenge shape of polished aluminium.
Unlike the Sixties original, a simple, intuitive finger push now activates the door catch electronically, allowing the door to be pulled open with style and attitude.
"The surfacing is smooth and appealing, punctuated by neat details," said chief designer Ehab Kaoud. "Your fingers want to caress its surfaces." Striking lines and bold body sections clearly build on the design language of the Focus production models. This foundation provided the concept design team with an opportunity unprecedented in the small car segment to create a stunningly attractive coupe derivative without making awkward design concessions to the practical packaging difficulties inherent in a folding-top cabriolet.
"Some are ready to accept compromises in cars of this kind, but we weren't," Kaoud added. "Our approach was that this car should be beautiful as a sporty coupe first. Having a great-to-drive coupe which can then transform into a stylish convertible gives the Focus Vignale Concept its unique dual personality."
The result of the Ford design team's work is a derivative model with a high degree of design coherence. Only cut lines visible at the base of the cleanly and fluidly shaped C-pillar betray the fact that the Focus Vignale Concept has a retractable top.
The Vignale Concept is finished in a new colour called Amalfi, evoking seaside freshness.
The exterior is highlighted by the use of bright polished aluminium which evokes the chrome of past grand touring cars from Europe. A narrow, polished aluminium strip stretches horizontally along the length of the vehicle at its sills, emphasising the confidence of the vehicle's stance, and it is mirrored by another horizontal strip at the lower edge of the side window graphic.
The Focus Vignale Concept's glass panels are uniquely coloured in Acqua, a blue-green tint that adds an air of exclusivity to its personality and elegantly subdues hues inside the vehicle when it is in coupe mode.
When the car transforms into a convertible, the resulting contrast when the sun streams onto the interior accentuates the concept vehicle's dual personality.
A new look grille, finished distinctively in chrome, also evokes a feeling that the Focus Vignale Concept could be from an expensive premium brand. Its horizontal bars clearly differentiate the concept vehicle from the new Focus range, hinting at a possible future design direction.
Lower aluminium touches continue at the front and rear of the vehicle, giving visual emphasis to front air ducts and rear exhaust outlets and adding a bold strip along the edge of the bootlid between the tail lamps.
Deep, passionately sculpted 20-inch wheels with wide, sweeping spokes provide an eye-pleasing combination of polished aluminium outer surfaces with machined aluminium on visible inner surfaces.
Emphasis on Luxury
Inside the Ford Focus Vignale Concept, the emphasis is on luxury and the same attention to craftsmanship found in the production Focus models. "Leather and suede surfaces in Amalfi Light bring an airy feel that complements the spacious interior, which itself offers more generous rear-seat room than many C-segment cabrios on the market today", said Interior Chief Designer, Narendra Karadia.
Subtle Acqua accents are also featured in the interior. Reminiscent of European sports cars' seat stitching, the contrast of underlying Acqua filetto treatments of Amalfi Light leather seat surfaces are a modern interpretation that conveys luxury and attention to detail. The seat inserts feature horizontal ribbing, another retro feature made more delicate and sophisticated in its contemporary execution.
The upper instrument panel is finished in Black Abalone-coloured leather, while the lower is Amalfi Light suede. Metallic accents on the door panels and steering wheel spokes are another link to the exterior design.
"The Focus Vignale Concept interior benefits from fluid, coherent design, the use of premium materials and the higher level of craftsmanship found across the new Focus range," said Karadia.
Ford of Europe's Design Group created a special team to create the Ford Focus Vignale Concept. The team took advantage of powerful computer resources to design the concept vehicle entirely within the digital environment, and in record time.
"Its four-season character was created in record time to demonstrate the potential we have in the new Ford Focus range to design future niche derivatives," said Bird.
"We are looking forward to hearing the reaction to the car in Australia - we believe the Ford Focus Vignale Concept builds on all the strengths of the mainstream Focus, but has extra appeal in an emotive and visceral way.
"This, we believe, will be an especially appealing trait of future Fords."