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The iPod Nano. The Motorola Razr cell phone. Urban lofts. The Ford Reflex concept. The American appetite for small products with full functionality is growing. With more than 50 percent of the global population expected to be living in urban settings by 2010, consumers seek the features of a large car in a stylish compact package.
The Ford Reflex proves that small cars can be bold, American, innovative and safe.
"Ford Reflex is an example of a small car that doesn't feel small," says Freeman Thomas, director, North American Strategic Design. "It is a gorgeous sporty car that delivers guilt-free performance with a hybrid engine. And thanks to its innovative approach to the interior, it has space for growing families."
The back seat offers the ultimate in small-car flexibility. A second-row "love seat" can accommodate two children or one adult. With the push of a button, a divider bar rises through the seat bottom, transforming one seat into two.
The Reflex features advanced safety technologies such as inflatable safety belts and Beltminder, for backseat passengers. The inflatable safety belt helps reduce injury risk to second-row occupants. This concept also is equipped with side air curtains and is fitted with an integrated rear-facing child safety seat.
The Reflex is just one approach to small-car design. The design team is also reaching out to new sources of inspiration with a long-term exploratory project at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Transportation design students have been challenged to create an all-new entry-level car for Ford customers, with the "small is big" idea in mind.
The students have the freedom to explore new shapes, surfaces and materials, as well as innovative ideas on interior packaging, aerodynamics and manufacturing. The first group of students has created an interesting array of proposals that combine the refined with the rugged and the sporty with the practical, and most importantly, challenge the norm.
"No company today is putting an American stamp on the small-car segment," said Mark Fields, executive vice president, Ford Motor Company, and president, The Americas. "That means there?s a huge growth opportunity, if only someone will seize it. Ford plans to seize it."
(Text & Photos courtesy Ford Motor Co.)
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