An contradiction with the very definition of the word, the concept of the niche is assuming an increasingly crucial position in the range strategies of car manufacturers, as it allows them to leave no ground uncovered in the market
for their rivals to fill and also because often, the identity of a large scale carmaker is defined by smaller volume models that appeal more to the imagination. When designing a niche model, defining a strong, strategically effective message that leaves a powerful impression in the public eye is key.
Speaking at Ford’s German design centre in Cologne, Stefan Lamm, chief of exterior design for Ford Europe and, specifically, for the Kuga project, put this idea more clearly into perspective. The programme for the new compact SUV, which led to the Blue Oval’s debut at the Geneva Motor Show in a completely new niche for the brand, was headed by Lamm, who came to Cologne in January 2005 after working for Opel. “The Kuga is my baby. When I arrived,
the preliminary studies for a crossover concept had only just started” he notes.
Lamm does not use the term SUV, and does not want to hear it used in reference to the Kuga, because the brief handed down from Ford’s top brass called for something different. “As this is a completely new direction for the range, we were asked to come up with something original. Of course there are references to compact SUVs, but in a more complex context that looks to a crossover between utility vehicle, passenger car and a touch of coupé”.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 169