DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.’s new chief design officer, Anthony Lo, says increasingly connected vehicles are disrupting traditional design processes.
Or, more accurately, upside down.
Lo, hired by Renault last year, said his teams now start by thinking about who customers are and designing an interior experience around their specific needs. Only then do they consider how the vehicle should be packaged externally.
“In the past, the exterior design always took the lead; that’s part of what draws you to the showroom,” Lo said. Automotive News. “But because of the amount of vehicle functionality you can control as a user, the user interface is becoming increasingly important.”
Lo, who is 57 and has spent most of his career in Europe and other overseas markets, is responsible for implementing this paradigm shift in a market that has traditionally focused on outward appearance.
“Detroit 3s generally haven’t led the industry when it comes to interior design,” said Karl Brauer, executive automotive analyst at iSeeCars. “But I think it makes sense if you consider the interior where a lot of technological changes have happened over the last 10 years. It’s all much more smartphone and touchscreen oriented.”
Beyond technological advancements, Lo said designers are increasingly looking to the interior due to changes to the powertrain. Electric vehicles typically rely on flat battery architectures resembling skateboards, giving designers more flexibility and freedom to create more spacious interiors and try new ideas.
“I think that’s really the biggest change in our industry,” Lo said. “We would of course put just as much love into the exterior, but it’s just that the priority has changed.”