By Jeffery Gilbert, CBS Detroit
DEARBORN, MI — (WWJ) Ford will be taking a concept vehicle to next month’s Frankfurt Auto Show that’s aimed strictly at the European market, but filled with technology that’s meant for the entire world.
The S-MAX has been a popular 7-passenger small crossover vehicle. The concept version will feature Ford’s new face, as well as a sleeker look for a vehicle that’s always been considered a style leader.
“What we’re actually doing is ratcheting up that sense of style even more,” says J. Mays, Ford’s Group Vice President of Global Design and Chief Creative Officer.
Mays says the S-MAX is part of an overall strategy that takes the mainstream Ford brand and make it more premium.
“I always maintain that premium doesn’t scream,” he said. “Premium has the confidence to speak a little more quietly.”
The S-Max concept will be loaded with technology that will likely be on future Ford vehicles. It includes upgrades to Ford’s parking assist technology. That now controls the steering as you parallel park. The next generation will also control braking and acceleration, and help you get out of the parking space. It also will back in to conventional parking space.
Ford’s Jim Buczkowski, who’s Director of Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering, couldn’t say when this may appear on a production vehicle.
Ford is also showing a navigation screen with a unique glass front that allows the front seat passenger to watch a movie, without distracting the driver. “It allows the driver to see one view of the display, and the passenger to see a different.”
The concept vehicle also includes some technologies that are already starting to become available, including rolling wireless hotspot, and a docking station for tablet computers.
“Ford’s strategy has always been to be friendly to the devices you already own,” said Buczkowski.
That includes the European version of My Ford Touch, the system that connects your smart phone, and puts many of the vehicles commands onto a computer screen.
While it’s been criticized here in the United States as being too complicated, Ford has maintained that the system is a popular option, that attracts buyers who are new to the brand.
Buczkowski says launching My Ford Touch in Europe is more difficult, especially with different road systems in different countries, and several languages. “Not only is it a language issue, but things like 911 Assist, to make that emergency call, it depends what country you’re in.”
Other new features being shown on the concept vehicle include a seat that can read your heart rate, and monitor your blood sugar.
While smaller vehicles are gaining in popularity here in the United States, Ford’s J. Mays doesn’t see a vehicle like the S-MAX being sold in this market. He says it’s target is people who are moving up from smaller vehicles, making it perfect for Europe.
“When you look at the types of vehicles that people have migrated out of over there, they’re all small multi-purpose vehicles, some multi-activity vehicles. We think it’s probably best for the European market.”
AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert will be covering press days of the Frankfurt Auto Show on September 10th and 11th. Follow him on Twitter (@jefferygilbert) or like his Facebook page (facebook.com/carchronicles)