Dunton Innovation Group, often the source of Ford’s cleverest ideas, is involved in car and commercial vehicle programmes in their early research phases.
[b]Ford B-MAX’s easy access[/b]
In studying ways to ease access in and out of a future small car, team members working on the Ford B-MAX project wanted completely unobstructed entry and exit. The Dunton Innovation Group came up with the idea of hinged front doors, sliding rear doors and integrating the central body pillars to create a 1.5-metre-wide opening.
Customer research had established that loading and unloading cars, especially from the side, needed to be as simple and easy as possible. This was not only said by parents and others ferrying children in their cars, but also by adults transporting older parents.
“Innovation at Ford starts with the customer,”said Richard Brown, manager of Ford’s Dunton Innovation Group. “We heard from families with one or two children aged under 10 using small cars round town and ‘third agers’, who look after both their own parents and grandchildren too.
“Their stories of banging doors in tight spaces and trying to open the doors while carrying a load inspired our thinking, discussions and creation of early prototypes to prove out possible solutions.”
Prototype demonstrators pioneering the Easy Access Door System, which now features on the production Ford B-MAX, went to customer clinics in the UK and on the continent. Public reaction confirmed Ford’s plans to progress the innovation: “Wow, it’s like opening a flat or an apartment,”said one customer.
The Ford B-MAX programme transferred from embryonic development at Dunton to engineers at the company’s sister technical centre in Cologne for full engineering and testing.
“We delivered B-MAX with an innovative door system while retaining the stylish sweeping roofline which is contributing to its appeal today – so job done by the Dunton Innovation Group,”said Richard Brown.
Other innovations hatched by the Dunton team include the Ford Focus’ award-winning Door Edge Protector (www.youtube.com/watch?v=iib8F0XSg18). A £50 option, the protectors wrap round the side of the doors when open and fold away discreetly as they are shut. The Southern Group of Motoring Writers gave the Ford invention its 2012 innovation award.
[b]New Transit Custom innovations[/b]
The new Ford Transit Custom now on sale debuts a pair of commercial vehicle features which are products of the Dunton Innovation Group.
Ford Transit Custom’s flexible load-carrying ability is enhanced by a unique new deployable roof rack system integrated into the roof.
Available as an option, the system features three transverse roof bars which are located in recesses in the roof panel, and which can be raised into place when required.
When the roof rack is not in use, the cross bars can be quickly folded down, reducing drag and fuel consumption, creating a smarter appearance, and keeping the vehicle height under two metres for access through car park height restrictions.
Also, the vehicle’s load-through hatch in the bulkhead enables loads up to three metres in length, such as pipes or ladders, to be safely carried inside a SWB vehicle. A hinged opening (596mm x 205mm) at the foot of the bulkhead allows long items to be laid along the floor of the van, and extend into a secure loadspace underneath the dual passenger seat in the front cabin. LWB models can accommodate loads up to 3.4m long.