Design Review : 2003 Ford Faction

This forgotten concept stands for a raft of vehicles conceived in a brief time at Ford’s London studio, Ingeni.

2003 Ford Faction Concept:source
2003 Ford Faction Concept:source

Not unreasonably, Ford wanted a studio located somewhere other than the drab environs of Merkenich and Basildon. So J Mays, then chief of design for FoMoCo, selected in 2002 a lovely office in a ritzy bit of London where designers could work hard, inspired by the buzz of city life. There is some good sociological thinking behind this. It didn’t last long, being closed in 2003, the year the Faction was shown.The Faction was designed for urban residents, correctly tapping into the nascent trend for CUVs, and maybe it was a re-take of the poorly received Fusion. “Functional, nimble and fashionable” were the watchwords (Newbury, 2003).

Design analysis
Design analysis

The doors had double-hinges to make opening them easier in tight spaces and the rear hatch had a separate moveable window to allow shopping to be stowed.

More interestingly, is that this car expressed the very technical look that was in vogue at the time. After the lively graphics of the Focus Mk 1 it was very sober and stark. Aspects of it channel VW’s style but Opel were also pursuing this path (the Vectra Mk3, in particular). Within a short time all of that was thrown out and replaced with Kinetic Design which oddly lacks very much individuality, despite the extra surface activity and more fluid graphics.

2003 Ford Faction interior: source
2003 Ford Faction interior: source

Inside, the interior is a paragon of industrial design style. When translated into production it did sometimes look inert as per the Ford Fiesta of 2002.

Reference: Newbury, S (2003) The Car Design Yearbook 2. Merrell, London (pp 98-99).

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “Design Review : 2003 Ford Faction”

  1. Focus, Fusion, Faction … It’s probably best that Ford brought the alliterative thing to a halt. It’s a strange mixture, not awful but neither does it justify J Mays idea that the Big City Buzz would inspire his designers. I live and work in London because it’s reasonably essential for my business. But, although it makes it easier to find skilled people to work with, because there are more people in London, we don’t flatter ourselves that we have a finger on the zeitgeist that we couldn’t maintain in an industrial estate in Southampton. I’m just guessing that when Mr Mays visited his outposts, he liked to go to somewhere that had a choice of fine dining, top shows and good tailors. Pity the product didn’t astonish.

    1. I might come back to this series of cars again. The idea to have designers in places nicer than industrial estates is a good one though. First, it´s an attractive proposition for skilled staff. It keeps them awake to the world beyond cars. Ingeni focused a lot on interaction and in some ways was prescient.

    2. Yes, but then many people would prefer not to work in an industrial estate (I write this from an industrial estate). I think that just employing designers with broader interests is more important that locating them somewhere they can go and look in expensive shop windows in their lunch break. The incentive of going to work for Ford should be a big enough attraction and, if it isn’t, then Ford shouldn’t want them.

  2. That interior shot of the facia reminds me of the later second generation Toyota Prius by its simplicity in locating instruments centrally near the windscreen with other devices closer in reach of both driver and passenger.
    This clean uncluttered look lasted for five years in the Prius until traditionalists won out with the return of a futuristic centre console and redundant “gear stick” in a car without a traditional transmission!

    1. We´re at the zenith of the busy phase of design. While the clean and uncluttered look is good, from a commercial point of view there is always the tendency to add more styling simply to distinguish the new one from the old one. At some point we´ll have to revert to something less complex.

    2. My Cube’s dash (probably designed 10 years ago now) is pleasantly simple. When I drive many other modern cars, I’m confronted with try-too-hard shapes – actually it’s quite depressing because it’s so stupid. I don’t know about you but, when I’m driving, I don’t spend much time admiring my dash architecture. And when I stop, I get out. The things I do notice and admire when I’m driving are functionality and clarity. That’s too often missing. So, except for the fact that, as shown, it would be as practical as a white suit, I like the Faction’s dash.

    3. The opposite of the Cube’s dash was the mental manga dashboard of the FN2 Civic. Both were designed at around the same time, and both work.

  3. On a point, I don’t find ‘Faction’ has great connotations. It would probably have succeeded no better than the ill-starred Jaguar Junta, the controversial Peugeot Prejudice or the unpopular Nissan Nasty.

    1. Arguably those cars were before their time. Bristol’s new model is called the Brexit, has seating for one person, makes a lot of noise and only goes in reverse. And I don’t know about you, but I am certainly looking forward to the Morgan Fascist Militia. I hear it’s a people-mover.

    1. This was my first thougt too. An Audi A2 as a SUV. I really like this unsculpted sideline of the Faction.

    2. Markus and Sean: the similarity of the headlamps, bumper and wheel arches occurred to me after I posted the article. Thanks for posting the comparison image. J Mays had been at VW and Chris Bird had followed him a short while after. They were still channelling VW form language in 2003, four years after the A2 had gone into production but, I suppose, five after images were first shown. He joined Ford two years before the A2 went into series production, which is after the design was finalised.

  4. I see that, after Ford closed Ingeni, J Mays took the premises for his use, when he would spend the majority of his working month since “(London) is ground zero for media creativity”. Right.

  5. I had been blissfully unaware of this concept, so thank you for pointing that out, Richard. Mind you, it’s not all that impressive, isn’t it? I certainly preferred VW’s original Up concept, which, I suppose, was aiming at conveying a similar kind of flair, albeit on a different scale.

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