Ford rethinks car interiors

(October 20, 2016) DEARBORN, Mich. — As consumers look for new ways to tap into the ever-growing digital world, the number of people using multiple digital devices on a regular basis has grown. In response, Ford has redesigned the interior of its 2017 Ford Fusion to offer drivers and passengers more storage, increased connectivity, and an open, airier feel throughout.

“People love the look and feel of Fusion, but there are always things we can do to make it better,” says Kelly Whetstone, Ford vehicle architecture supervisor for Fusion. “So we looked at customer feedback, and then we honed in on the storage capability of the car.”

Roughly one in three Americans now own a smartphone, a computer and a tablet – a 140-percent increase over the last three years, according to Pew Research Center. Among U.S. adults today, 68 percent have a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011, while tablet computer ownership has edged up from 3 percent to 45 percent. Research also finds some 14 percent own a portable gaming device, while around 19 percent have e-book readers.

To accommodate all of these devices, Ford engineered 59 percent more storage into the Fusion console, adding easy-to-reach bins throughout, including a new phone pocket and area for small coins. To provide a 4-liter increase to the main console storage area, the armrest has been lengthened about 3 inches, and a clamshell design has been incorporated for the upper compartment to make the space more accessible and user friendly.

The revamped media bin at the front of the console, under the 8-inch touch screen, sees the addition of a lighted USB port for increased connectivity on the forward wall. A narrow new storage slot behind it is perfect for a cellphone and other small items.

The rearrangement provides room for more efficiently designed cord storage space, so cords don’t tangle, droop or snag. The new USB port allows for easier phone connection, so customers can enjoy the full functionality of SYNC 3 and AppLink.

New rotary gear shift dial

A sleek rotary gear shift dial replaces the traditional shifter found in previous models. The new shifter serves both form and function, says Hani Badawi, Ford Fusion ergonomics engineer. Not only is its less intrusive form aesthetically pleasing, the design frees up valuable real estate on the console.

“Without the larger base of the traditional shifter, there was much more room for us to add features that are important to the Fusion customer, like storage and connections,” says Badawi. “We were able to shuffle around the driver-assist controls to the base of the shifter, along with the electronic brake, for a more intuitive arrangement for the customer, as well as providing a longer armrest for significantly improved elbow comfort for drivers.”

The change in size and placement of the shifter also allowed the cupholders to be repositioned. Previously side by side in the middle of the console, they now sit fore and aft – closer to the passenger side. The front cupholder is only 6 inches forward from its original position, say the engineers, but the tweak makes quite a difference ergonomically, as Fusion cupholders are now within easy reach for 95 percent of the population.

The new location also eliminates an issue sometimes found in previous models, explains Whetstone. “Before, people would be using the shifter and they’d be bumping their elbows on cups because the cupholders were behind it,” she says. “That’s not going to happen anymore.”

More ergonomic improvements

With the futuristic shifter and new console configuration, the Fusion cabin now appears open and airier, while the streamlined console seems less crowded, with more length and space.

The comfort of the new Fusion interior is further enhanced by a tweak to the design and size of the footrest pedal, which is now larger and around 1 inch wider to better accommodate various foot sizes. And a slimmer A-pillar allows for improved forward visibility for the driver.