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New Car Design Overhauls
Many times, new car face-lifts are merely a nip here and a tuck there, but in general most aspects of the previous model remain. Some car makers, though, go all out to create something new, something that turns heads in the street and creates a whole new identity for a favorite, often high-selling brand. Those are the types of makeovers we took a look at for this story, listing the Eight Great Design Overhauls on today's models. Take a look.
Brief: Create breakthrough product in crowded full-size truck sector.
Design: Toyota's biggest truck was rebuilt from the rutted ground up and restyled with a mix of attitude, innovation and old-fashioned heft. Calty Design research of Newport Beach, Calif. and Ann Arbor, Mich. ensured this one did not in any way resemble its predecessor, except that it was big ... super big. And super bad.
Features: Sloping, angular hood, flanged wheel arches, forward slanting C-pillar, wraparound headlights.
Result: The Tundra sold just 4,000 short of its targeted 200,000 sales for 2007, which it considers a great success.
Brief: Introduce compact model to mainstream market. Prove that small can be big.
Design: Lon Zaback, Focus chief designer, raised the Focus' beltline to give an air of solidness and create a sleeker profile. Exaggerated features and a wider stance give hints of muscularity and definition missing from its bland forebear. Zaback aimed for "movement, tension and drama."
Features: Flanged wheel arches, multiple angular character lines from taillights to front wheel and A-pillar to headlight, seven-shade ambient lighting inside.
Result: J.D. Power sales data show that 32 percent of 2008 Focus year buyers are 16 to 35 years old. ThatÔøΩs up from 28 percent of 2007 Focus buyers. So it's cool to own a Ford, right?
Brief: Style at a competitive price. Think Camry, Cadillac, Corvette.
Design: Malibu chief designer Clay Dean, now a director at Cadillac, also sculpted the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Aura. He brought a wealth of experience a more than a hint of sports refinement -- including inspiration from the Corvette -- to the Malibu, to break it free from its image as a stodgy, dull midsize.
Features: Long hood and short trunk, few character lines, flared fenders, double chrome exhaust, bulbous horizontal front grille, dynamic sweeping cowl inside, textured materials at "touch points."
Result: Malibu retail sales were up 198 percent while total sales climbed 58 percent, compared to a year ago.
Brief: Create a classic silhouette to house a V-8 engine, five passengers
Design: Chief designer (and car legend) Ralph Gilles sought to work with Chrysler engineers and executives to create a timeless product that at once looked to executive cars of the past with a sharp nod to the future. Think Bentley and Mercedes. Don't think curvy, bland 300C predecessors.
Features: Massive hood, bold front grille, high beltline, huge wheel arches, slab sides, short overhangs
Result: Consistently high selling. Most importantly, Gilles created a "halo car" for the Chrysler range, which draws sales to other sectors.
Brief: Focus on the fundamentals
Design: Design chief Dave Marek, who also led the Ridgeline truck and Acura TL teams, pointed out to www.autofieldguide.com that "package and proportion" are starting points for all Honda design. The focus then shifts to clean and simple lines, larger glass for visibility and tight panel gaps. Though every facet has been radically restyled, this one is perhaps more conservative than its predecessor.
Features: Steeply raked windshield, wedge-shaped body, sweeping roofline, low and wide stance, large swooping cowl inside, large dials.
Result: Last I checked at the Honda dealer, business is brisker than it's ever been, with Honda suffering less than its domestic competitors amid the downturn.
Brief: A bigger and better box
Design: Nearly a foot longer and three inches wider than its precursor, not to mention much more rounded than its cubicle-like previous model, the xB's height shrank by an inch to give it a more low-profile look (and improve its ride). Comfort and lifestyle played a part in Scion's in-house design team looking to create a lounge-like atmosphere inside.
Features: Wide C-pillars, running-boards wrap into back and front wheel flanges, four-square front end, center-mounted dials inside.
Result: Mixed, a heavier curb weight means worsened fuel consumption, which could have impacted sales more than its redesign.
Brief: Harmony without harshness
Design: From CTS exterior design leader Erwin Angala, who also worked on the Hummer H2, you can always expect radical redesigns. The 2008 CTS, however, mildly tweaks the lines of the massively successful 2002 roll-out and it's the interior where the major resculpting has taken place, courtesy of GM interior chief Dave Lyones.
Features: Wider vertical grille inserts and more dynamic headlights outside, inside has a fully reworked curved and sculpted dash with emphasis on spaciousness, hand-cut and stitched leather on seats, panels and steering wheel, wedge-shaped central console, "architectural" interior lighting influenced by nightclubs and upscale retail joints emanating from 15 light sources and 5 fiber-optic lights.
Result: It's hard to argue with the car of the year designations and plaudits it's won.
Brief: Refine, and define, perfection. Nothing boring!
Design: Toyota's Japan-based design team aimed to increase the "athletic" look of the car, to break free of the brand's traditionally conservative styling, aiming for a longer cabin with strong, rounded planes. Wheels are pushed to edge of the longer, wider chassis. Character line swoops from the back three-quarter around the headlights to define the deeper front grille.
Features: Steeper windshield gives wider cowl and more spacious feeling inside, arching roofline, broader grille with wedge headlight sets, subdued colors lend air of executive cars, intuitively functioning switchgear inside, massively improved cabin materials.
Result: Consistently high selling while attracting repeat and new buyers.
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