Eight Design Overhauls
Design: Toyota's biggest truck was rebuilt from the rutted ground up and restyled with a mix of attitude, innovation and old-fashioned heft. Calty Design research of Newport Beach, Calif. and Ann Arbor, Mich. ensured this one did not in any way resemble its predecessor, except that it was big ... super big. And super bad.
Result: The Tundra sold just 4,000 short of its targeted 200,000 sales for 2007, which it considers a great success.
Design: Lon Zaback, Focus chief designer, raised the Focus' beltline to give an air of solidness and create a sleeker profile. Exaggerated features and a wider stance give hints of muscularity and definition missing from its bland forebear. Zaback aimed for "movement, tension and drama."
Result: J.D. Power sales data show that 32 percent of 2008 Focus year buyers are 16 to 35 years old. ThatÔøΩs up from 28 percent of 2007 Focus buyers. So it's cool to own a Ford, right?
Design: Malibu chief designer Clay Dean, now a director at Cadillac, also sculpted the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Aura. He brought a wealth of experience a more than a hint of sports refinement -- including inspiration from the Corvette -- to the Malibu, to break it free from its image as a stodgy, dull midsize.
Result: Malibu retail sales were up 198 percent while total sales climbed 58 percent, compared to a year ago.
Design: Chief designer (and car legend) Ralph Gilles sought to work with Chrysler engineers and executives to create a timeless product that at once looked to executive cars of the past with a sharp nod to the future. Think Bentley and Mercedes. Don't think curvy, bland 300C predecessors.
Result: Consistently high selling. Most importantly, Gilles created a "halo car" for the Chrysler range, which draws sales to other sectors.
Design: Design chief Dave Marek, who also led the Ridgeline truck and Acura TL teams, pointed out to www.autofieldguide.com that "package and proportion" are starting points for all Honda design. The focus then shifts to clean and simple lines, larger glass for visibility and tight panel gaps. Though every facet has been radically restyled, this one is perhaps more conservative than its predecessor.
Result: Last I checked at the Honda dealer, business is brisker than it's ever been, with Honda suffering less than its domestic competitors amid the downturn.
Design: Nearly a foot longer and three inches wider than its precursor, not to mention much more rounded than its cubicle-like previous model, the xB's height shrank by an inch to give it a more low-profile look (and improve its ride). Comfort and lifestyle played a part in Scion's in-house design team looking to create a lounge-like atmosphere inside.
Result: Mixed, a heavier curb weight means worsened fuel consumption, which could have impacted sales more than its redesign.
Design: From CTS exterior design leader Erwin Angala, who also worked on the Hummer H2, you can always expect radical redesigns. The 2008 CTS, however, mildly tweaks the lines of the massively successful 2002 roll-out and it's the interior where the major resculpting has taken place, courtesy of GM interior chief Dave Lyones.
Result: It's hard to argue with the car of the year designations and plaudits it's won.
Design: Toyota's Japan-based design team aimed to increase the "athletic" look of the car, to break free of the brand's traditionally conservative styling, aiming for a longer cabin with strong, rounded planes. Wheels are pushed to edge of the longer, wider chassis. Character line swoops from the back three-quarter around the headlights to define the deeper front grille.
Result: Consistently high selling while attracting repeat and new buyers.