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Kai Ryssdal: Speaking of industries looking for a rebound, on now to cars. If you go to a Ford dealer today in, say, Dearborn, Mich., you’re going to find cars that are very different from what you’d find in a dealer in, say, Frankfurt, Germany. Or any place else overseas for that matter. But that’s not going to be true in a couple of years.
Ford said today it’s planning a global design for its cars. So that cute little thing you see in Europe could turn up in a parking lot near you. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth explains the idea behind it.
ALISA ROTH: The most obvious reason to sell the same cars everywhere is that it’s cheaper.
Moray Callum is in charge of design for Ford’s North American operations.
MORAY CALLUM: Well, obviously, it’s better for us if we can design one vehicle that can be sold around the world, instead of designing three different vehicles that can be sold around the world, so from a business sense, that obviously makes sense.
You can save money on everything from engineering to manufacturing.
CALLUM: It’s also to do with the fact that the time is now right for designing one car for a global clientele.
Ford thinks peoples’ tastes are starting to converge because of things like the Internet, Hollywood, and international travel.
Some car companies, like BMW and Volkswagen, already have global designs. But others, like Honda and Toyota, make a point of developing models for North American drivers.
Eric Noble is president of the Car Lab, an auto design consulting company. He says by going to a single design, Ford will have to take the risky step of ignoring what some of its customers want.
ERIC NOBLE: Peru and Western Germany and Chicago are really always going to have different vehicle needs, so if a manufacturer makes the decision to sell the same vehicle in all three of those places, by nature it’s a compromise decision.
He says that might ultimately mean fewer people buy their cars. Though presumably Ford’s plan is the greater efficiency will make up for that.
Ford’s Callum says the new designs will take inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. The smaller models will be a bit more Euro. The bigger ones a little more American.
I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
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