- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

DEARBORN, Mich. There is no doubt that sleek exteriors sell vehicles, but the public is paying more attention to interiors these days, according to the latest reports.
"Investing in interiors is money well spent, because it's one of the few remaining points of differentiation among cars, trucks and SUVs," says J. Mays, Ford Motor Co. vice president of design.
Mr. Mays spoke to the automotive press at the company's full-line preview of 2003 models.
"By and large, automakers use the same key technologies and offer the same types of vehicles, but it's still possible to set your products apart with better materials, greater use of leather, wood and titanium finishes, and more attention to detail."
Mr. Mays says designers recognize that people spend more time inside their vehicles than they do standing outside looking at them. More time is also spent using the knobs and gripping the wheel.
These points of contact provide the customers with the most lasting impressions about a car or truck's "feel" and perceived quality.
It is for this reason that Ford is tripling its investment in interior design and development.
"Interior design is finally receiving the attention it deserves all in an effort to please consumers," Mr. Mays says.
"We believe the auto company that makes spending time in the car more pleasing for consumers ultimately will win their business."
As part of improving its interiors, Ford is paying attention to sound quality in its vehicles including major improvements for the 2003 model year.
"When we talk about getting back to basics, there is nothing more fundamental than how a car sounds and performs," says Dave Payne, Ford's worldwide noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) manager.
"Once we take the bad sounds out, we can then let in pleasing sounds. Just like one person can ruin the movie experience by talking, bad sounds can disrupt the entire driving experience."
He pointed out a recent J.D. Power and Associates vehicle-acoustics study that revealed a dramatic correlation between interior quietness and overall vehicle satisfaction.
Those who rated interior quietness "truly outstanding" had a 95 percent satisfaction rate with their vehicles.
Those who rated interior quietness "very good" two marks lower than "truly outstanding" had 75 percent overall vehicle satisfaction.
"Our customers have spoken, and they don't want noisy cars and trucks," says Jan Valentic, Ford's vice president of global marketing. "There's not one other area of the vehicle that has such a direct impact on customer satisfaction. We know the solution. Now it's just a matter of making the right tradeoffs and leveraging one of the industry's most established and expert NVH research facilities to make quieter vehicles."


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