Ford Designs New Car Entirely With Virtual Reality
As the industry approaches a 12-figure valuation, one auto manufacturer has taken their brand to the next level with virtual reality technology. Ford recently unveiled the image of a groundbreaking new race car, which was designed entirely using virtual reality. This 3D design method is providing auto brands with hyper-realistic detailing, improved tactile response, and enhanced blueprint imaging. Read on to learn how Ford has used virtual reality to revolutionize the design and prototyping phase of automobile production. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-48.jpeg] TECHNICIAN TRAINING AND SUPPORT Worker education and training was another aspect of the auto manufacturing process that was greatly impacted by the pandemic. Certain employees who depend on three-dimensional visual and tactile elements were able to continue operations, despite telecommuting demands. Using mobile-friendly VR headsets or 3D visual projections, workers were able to attend courses, seminars, and training sessions which incorporated realistic exercises with practical applications. Hands-on professionals can only apply so many skills with videos and images alone. Virtual reality programs make it possible to create cloud-based digital scenarios for virtually every step in the car manufacturing process. This is also another area where car brands can cut costs, since virtual reality renders replace the need for a physical vehicle model during the product ideation, design, and testing phases. SAFER MANUFACTURING DURING COVID-19 Like many other industries across the global workforce, COVID-19 had a significant impact on the automobile industry. Stringent distancing measures and regulations for commercial businesses put standard operations on halt for most car companies. Using virtual reality to design and produce cars allowed employees to effectively work remotely. By maintaining timelines for prototype development, marketing, and distribution, Ford is one of the companies that was able to thrive in spite of the market downturn. For example, Ford technicians used proprietary VR software to complete the Mustang Mach-E while working from home. This technology gave designers, engineers, and quality control specialists the ability to complete their work remotely, allowing offsite teams to reach production quotas and deadlines successfully. Virtual reality technology has also made strides for innovation and product development. By simplifying analysis and collaboration processes during the COVID-19 lockdown, Ford used virtual reality headsets for: * 3D modeling * Computer-aided designing * Digital sketching * Virtual environment generation Safety is paramount in a time like this, and community health parameters largely outweigh product demand and profitability across the global marketplace. Ford is one auto manufacturer that was able to simultaneously reduce physical contact and streamline the digital design process using virtual reality systems. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-49.jpeg] INCREASED LEVEL OF CONTROL DURING INITIAL DESIGN PHASE If there’s one thing that can tank the production of a great product, it’s poor communication. In order for something as intricate as a high-performance sports car to successfully reach the last stage of development, everyone involved needs to be on the same page every step of the way. Detailed 3D diagrams, secure cloud-based file sharing, and mobile-friendly syncing capabilities are making it easier than ever for remote workers to virtually design, test, and analyze new vehicles from any location. AR/VR-enabled mobile devices and interactive projections give each user the ability to move, rotate, magnify, or expand individual car parts from every angle of the interior, exterior, and frame. Virtual reality makes it easier for every worker to access information, graphics, and valuable updates regarding the project. The same technology simplifies internal communications by rendering every aspect of the vehicle in a completely digital, cloud-hosted environment. While this development made it easier for Ford to sustain operations during the pandemic, virtual reality tech will undoubtedly become a mainstay in the automotive industry. REDUCED COST AND TIME SPENT ON PROTOTYPE DEVELOPMENT When using physical prototypes and clay modeling to create a new vehicle, it can take weeks for just one model to come to fruition. Virtual reality allows technicians to complete the same steps digitally in a fraction of the time, reducing the production life cycle to just a few days. Requiring less time for the creation of each model allows internal and remote teams to allocate their time to other projections. Or, companies can cut a considerable chunk out of their budget by reducing spending on: * Staffing * Materials * Operationa * Leasing space * Research and development Using virtual reality instead of physical development techniques, auto companies can potentially cut the time they spend prior to product launch by more than 20 percent. Unsurprisingly, this can directly translate to a significant reduction in cost almost immediately following system adoption. As with any company, it’s in the best interest of every auto manufacturer to cut costs and maximize innovation anyway they can. This is especially true when considering the competitiveness of the auto market AND the economic strain of a global pandemic. Scalability and growth is paramount in the current sink or swim environment. FORD BREAKS BARRIERS IN PERFORMANCE AND INGENUITY This industry-changing event was broadcast live to viewers, giving consumers a first-hand look at the process. Ford chose to use a top-performing speed machine as an example, while also appealing to the alternative energy market with an all-electric fuel system. It’s no secret that Ford sought to make history by dropping the digitally built Mach-E on their growing audience. Innovators who were responsible for the construction and application of VR to production speed, accuracy, and advertising optimization have managed to disrupt the downward trajectory of an entire industry. Despite being in the midst of one of the most significant economic downturns in American history, Ford’s stocks have risen during the summer slump. This shift in the company’s growth potential shows that it’s still possible to grow and thrive in less-than-favorable commercial circumstances. FASTER LAUNCH TIME AND PRODUCTION By preventing the same pitfalls that caused other auto manufacturers to halt production during the pandemic, Ford was able to exceed industry expectionations by a landslide. While Ford does own a dedicated VR lab for testing and product development, they’ve successfully moved similar technology offsite. Now, workers can view digital models virtually from their mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer at home. Improving the seamlessness of the early stages in the product development process gave Ford the ability to reduce costs and save time sooner than previous methods allowed. This gave them the support they needed to build a brand new unit collaboratively without the use of a physical manufacturing location. One of the primary inhibitors to corporate profits during the COVID-19 lockdown was the brand’s inability to produce or distribute their products. Showrooms closed, workers were sent home, and production stopped for many brands as they tried to navigate regulations that changed by the hour. Using virtual reality to bridge these gaps, Ford continued to test, assess, and work out bugs that were found in an entirely digital environment. As a result of these simplifications throughout the critical beginning stages of production, this auto manufacturer made history and was able to release their newest high-performance race car in record time. STREAMLINED SHOPPING EXPERIENCE AND ENHANCED MARKETING Although virtual reality was used primarily during the first phases of the car’s production, VR also improved Ford’s marketing efforts in a few different ways. From creating an immersive virtual showroom shopping experience to allowing consumers to tour their prospective purchase from home, VR is making the automotive industry more accessible for everyone. As a result of the ongoing health crisis, consumers are becoming accustomed to shopping online for everything from groceries to homes to – you guessed it – automobiles. This trend is expected to outlast the pandemic, which will change the way we all interact with consumer products. Virtual reality is giving every level of consumer a birds-eye view of their new investment, which gives the buyer more independence during their search. Having more customization and control over their purchase gives casual and committed shoppers a much higher level of overall satisfaction regarding the transaction. By reducing their consumer bounce rate, Ford used virtual reality to turn an exciting new product into a tool for improved client retention and brand recognition. The application of this technology throughout the rest of the process has allowed car brands like Ford to apply their efforts vertically into areas like: * Eco-friendly technology * Alternative fuel methods * Sustainable manufacturing * Increased automation With their compatible at-home VR program, Ford maintained a surprisingly high level of productivity and growth during an incredibly difficult time. This leading car company has made headlines with their all-electric muscle car, but other brands are following close behind. Cross-functional trailblazers like Bosch and Amazon have shown why virtual reality is a practical investment for nearly every sphere. By virtually designing an entire vehicle from conception through completion, Ford has changed the way companies and consumers will produce and distribute products. If we learned anything from the buzz around the Mach-E, it’s that virtual reality is here to stay.
The History of the Dodge Charger
Many that hear the name Dodge Charger, instantly think about the early year classics or the latest muscle car from the series. The Charger has been around since 1966 in various forms. Not all models were a success, and some couldn’t really be described as a “classic” muscle car. However, they have certainly put out a few models that captured hearts and imaginations, locking them in as a great American classic. As of now, they are back on track with popular models such as the Hellcat Redeye. The public expects brute force and a look to back it with the Dodge Charger, and currently, that is exactly what is being delivered. So, let’s take a look at how this American powerhouse of a car got to where it is today. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-37.jpeg] 1966–1967 FIRST GEN DODGE CHARGER This was a high competition era for the early Dodge Chargers. They were up against cars like the GTO and Chevelle. In order to get the brand out there, they needed to deliver both in style and in power to make this car catch on. This was a 2-door fastback. The styling was sleek, wide, and low. It had reasonably aggressive flaring and indents, but also seemed to be slightly an understated muscle car for what was hiding under the hood. The roof curves down towards the back, giving it a mildly sporty look. Depending on their budget, buyers could opt from an impressive range of V8 engines. Now, when you look at this list, consider that this power is from a 1966 car. Many cars on the market today are struggling to hit these figures: * 5.2-liter V-8 * 5.9-liter V-8 * 6.3-liter V-8 * 7.0-liter Hemi V-8 Engines ranged from 230 horsepower, up to over 400 horsepower in the early gen models. All of these came with plenty of torque too, with the Hemi churning out a massive 490 lb-ft of torque. These were then coupled up to a 3-4 speed manual, or 3-speed automatic transmission. Inside the 1966 Dodge Charger passengers were greeted with four separate bucket seats. A center console ran right through the interior of the car. However, surprisingly considering its popularity today, sales of the first-generation Dodge Charger weren’t all that high. This was, however, fixed when the second generation launched in 1968. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-38.jpeg] 1968–1970 SECOND GEN DODGE CHARGER This model not only captured those of the era but the hearts of fans for decades after. This model was intended to make an impact and that grille makes sure it does. The look was so distinct that it became a featured car in movies of the era. One of its most renowned appearances was in General Lee and The Dukes of Hazzard. The full-width grille on what is already a wide body gives it an aggressive look. That’s then added to further by the wide body, which is low riding, and a curved roof that slopes off into the thin rear. Even the rear lights were rounded, for more individual styling. One of the main reasons this car has such an aggressive look is at first it appears not to have any headlights. The headlights are actually sunk back and almost hidden beneath the grille itself. They blend with the bodywork perfectly and give the car a unique look. In 1969 the Charger 500 was born to NASCAR, with a Dodge Coronet grille added for better traction and fitted with the high-end V8s. This was also followed by the Charger Daytona, with a more aerodynamic that totally did away with the flat front grille design. This model literally curved into a sharp line at the front, intending to cut through the air like a knife. Both cars were highly successful, to the point they ended up being restricted and eventually banned from racing. They were ahead of their time for power and performance on the track. Of course, it was not only styling, but there was some serious work put in under the hood. The engines available at the time included: * 3.7-liter Straight-6 * 7.0-liter Hemi V-8 * 7.2-liter Magnum V-8 This time, these were coupled to a 3-4 speed manual transmission or two options for 3-speed automatic transmissions. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-39.jpeg] 1971–1974 THIRD GEN DODGE CHARGER This model changed the grille once again, this time offering a divided grille. The split effect was provided with a large chrome surround that came down through the middle, almost creating a twin grille effect. The lights were also moved into the grille area, with twin round headlamps on both sides of the split grille. While a more traditional placement for headlamps, the split grille and two lamps in each section still maintain a uniquely aggressive styling. It was a sportier brother to the Dodge Coronet sedan range, actually borrowing that split grille and twin lamp design. Sales of this model were a success, partly because of the popularity, and partly because it ended up replacing the Dodge Coronet. Of course, the roof still sloped towards the rear of the car, with both the base and upper trunk curving towards that distinctive rear flaring, set with round brake lamps. Engines available included: * 3.7-liter Straight-6 * 5.2-liter V-8 * 6.3-liter V-8 * 7.2-liter Magnum V-8 There were also sport variations provided to the public. Due to the success of this car on the track, they were a popular model to get. These included the Charger Super Bee, Charger R/T, and Charger 500. Sadly, this was the last time we would see this style of Charger from Dodge. Things take a dramatic turn, and many would say it was not for the better. However, keep reading, as Dodge does pull things back around as we move towards the present. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-40.jpeg] 1975–1978 FOURTH GEN DODGE CHARGER Dodge took a new direction for this series, aiming to fulfill the luxury car market, rather than the muscle car and racing style it became famous for. The appearance was heavily adjusted to a style that resembled more of a 2-door luxury sedan. Or, as said of the era, it was a personal luxury coupe. The roof was often a fake convertible roof, often referred to as a Landau roof. Strangely, this is where a fixed roof (solid metal, the same as a normal car) has cosmetic coverings and attachments to make it look like it is a convertible car. These would often be covered in materials such as leather or cloth to add to the appearance of it being convertible – despite it not being even semi-convertible. The car itself had a bulkier and heavier look. The styling was less streamlined and more of a family car look. The grille was now a small central grille, although the twin headlamps remained either side of the grille. Above that, the hood was set with a hood ornament. Engine-wise, there were: * 5.2 Straight 6 * 5.9 Straight 6 * 6.6-liter V-8 These were connected to a 3-4 speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. The luxury cars produced by Dodge of this era were a success for a while but went out of production by 1978. The charger had changed, it was currently no longer about raw American power, but comfort and class. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-41.jpeg] 1982–1987 FIFTH GEN DODGE CHARGER This generation also saw another impressively dramatic switch in design, now seemingly aiming for the economy car market. The Charger returned as an attempt at producing a subcompact hatchback coupe. The car was also front-wheel drive, something that is often not popular with muscle car enthusiasts. This fifth-gen Charger’s engines included: * 1.7-liter * 1.6-liter * 2.2-liter These engines, unlike previous years, put out less than 150 horsepower, even on the later sports models and with lower-end engines producing about half of that power. To put that in comparison, most initial first-gen Chargers had from 230 to over 400 horsepower (as rated at the time of production) V8 engines. The Dodge Shelby Charger trim was fitted with the larger engine and some sportier trims and additions. If you recognized the name, this was a Carroll Shelby-tuned version of the Charger. This was upgraded further with turbocharged power of 174 horsepower, a significant improvement on the earlier offerings. Shelby later upgraded this slightly more in the final Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS. However, this model put the Charger back out of production again in 1987, leaving a significant time gap before the Charger would be seen again in 2006. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-42.jpeg] 2006–2010 SIXTH GEN DODGE CHARGER A relaunch that was worthy of the original Chargers, their reputation, and looks being restored. Now produced as a four-door, this model brought back a lot of the muscle car styling that most want from a Dodge Charger. It also restores rear-wheel drive and an aggressive cross split grille. Hood flares and skirting only add to the sporty look. While it is clearly designed to be workable as an everyday car or family car even, it has a much meaner look than had been seen from the charger since 1974. The sloping roof is also back, although this time curving down into a deeper and beefier looking truck. The entire design is of a powerful and yet very solid sedan muscle car. An unusual blend, but one that seems to work. Unlike the previous attempt at a Charger come back in 1982, this version has some powerful engine choices: * 2.7-liter V-6 * 3.5-liter V-6 * 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 * 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 This series had a lot more options too, including AWD. The power outputs were also more similar to those of the earlier powerhouse years, churning out about 180-370 horsepower, depending on the year and options. All engines were connected to a 4-5 speed automatic transmission. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-43.jpeg] 2011–PRESENT SEVENTH GEN DODGE CHARGER Finally, the Dodge Charger seems to be settling on a style that works, at least for the present. They have returned to their roots, providing an aggressive muscle car, albeit with more comforts and styling inside. The flared wide-body styling is back, along with the famously feature grilles. It is also now available with not only engines that match the initial Gen 1-3 power levels but even exceed them in some editions. The main available engine setups are: * 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 * 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 * 6.2-liter Hellcat V-8 * 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 Earlier models were connected with the same 5-speed automatic transmission of the last release. However, most have a smoother and quicker eight-speed automatic. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-44.jpeg] From 2015 customers also got meaner offerings, including a 6.2-liter V-8 Hellcat with 707 horsepower and the 2021 Dodge Charger has a Hellcat Redeye setup, with 797 horsepower. The new Dodge Charger might be more practical as a daily car, but it certainly hasn’t let go of being a true muscle car and it seems things are only likely to continue in this direction for the Charger.
Virtual Reality in Car Design at Ford: Joel Piaskowski Interview
While the Covid pandemic caused many businesses to shutter and implement work-from-home operations, the supply chains for many industries (including automotive) came to a halt as factories paused production to ensure workers’ safety. Globally, supply and demand for many nonessential goods decreased as consumers hunkered indoors abiding by shelter-in-place mandates and limiting excursions to only necessary trips. Yet, other divisions and departments within industries pushed forward. While factory work might have been limited—or completely shut down—for other employees, it was simply business as usual, albeit from a home office…and perhaps an infusion of new technology. Ford’s Joel Piaskowski spoke with Automobile Magazine about how the company utilized virtual reality as designers worked from home to create new models. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-25.jpeg] VIRTUAL MODELING IN 3D Traditional automobile models are often rendered in clay, but Covid’s work-from-home office structure required that team leaders have a more integrated approach to design. Clay models could only be viewed via conference calls in 2D; however, a three-dimensional approach is necessary for directors to appropriately visualize and understand a concept model. With clay models momentarily crushed as an option, design teams had to utilize other ways to create and conceptualize these models. The solution for Ford was virtual reality. Piaskowski told the magazine that several company leaders/directors utilized virtual reality to preview designs for models. Meanwhile, designers were working from home via their company computers/software and creating the concepts that took life via virtual reality. VIEWING MODELS IN VIRTUAL REALITY For Ford, modeling in VR integrated some familiar backdrops. Piaskowski said in the interview that they had a 360-degree photo of a company courtyard that they used to display their virtual models. Avatars of directors also could swap into others’ positions within the VR landscape (to gain a different perspective), and Piaskowski also said in the interview that he could utilize a laser pointer in VR to draw attention to certain aspects of a model. All of these capabilities emphasize how technology has been embraced during the pandemic to continue normal business operations. Still, clay will continue to be necessary. Piaskowski stated in the interview: “Once it gets down to final sign off, it seems like clay is never going to go away…” However, when this element couldn’t be used in the earlier phases of the design layout, VR has been a convenient resource to ensure that the design aspect of the industry doesn’t come to a complete standstill. BEFORE THE PANDEMIC VIRTUAL REALITY WAS A RISING TECHNOLOGY Virtual reality in automotive design is a pivot that many other manufacturers have utilized…even before Covid forced many manufacturers to pivot to a virtual workspace. Grid Raster, which works with the automotive, aerospace and defense and technology manufacturers, conducted a survey to understand how companies are using VR “for greater production efficiencies and savings.” The survey gleaned more than 200 responses “from C-level and technology executives of mid-level and enterprise-level organizations”). The survey was conducted in late March of 2020, right around the time Covid shelter-in-place mandates began across the country. More than half of those who participated in the survey said that the company used VR/AR in design. More than a quarter noted that it was used for training employees, and more than half implemented VR for customer service (i.e. virtual visits). In a press release about the survey, Dijam Panigrahi, Grid Raster’s co-founder and Chief Operations Officer, noted that the Covid pandemic was likely to further boost the use of VR: “The recent COVID-19 pandemic may push this number further, especially as companies of all sizes look to implement more virtual design into their workflows to minimize human interaction on the production floor,” said Panigrahi in the press release. “It is encouraging that these companies are realizing the benefits that AR/VR offers, but scalability offers great challenges in many cases.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-26.jpeg] COVID’S IMPACT ON THE RISE OF VR IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY While Ford immersed its design efforts into a virtual world, the automotive industry also was forced to do a virtual pivot in other sectors as Covid’s devastating economic wave swamped the retail and manufacturing industries. Consumers were no longer visiting dealership lots to test drive new automobiles or preview new models in showrooms. As the shelter-in-place mandates took hold, many left their homes only for the essentials. And when cities slowly reopened, sanitizing and social distancing also meant limitations to the shopping experience. In response, car shopping went virtual. Dealerships offered those on the hunt for a new car a shopping experience powered by virtual reality technology. Some offered shoppers an online virtual test drive, while other apps let individuals schedule in-person test drives. Business Insider reported that dealerships also were bringing cars to individuals at home for a scheduled test drive. Virtual showrooms popped up online and provided shoppers with a unique glimpse of the dealership inventory. Companies like Relay Cars offered virtual showrooms that allowed shoppers to view the interior and exterior of different makes/models and even change paint hues. Convenience was a key factor in these virtual options. When consumers felt uncomfortable leaving home to shop, the experience had to alter to meet these needs. Of course, the pandemic forced the hand of many industries, too, concerning virtual options. Survival meant evolving to the unique climate and to the changing demands of the buyer. Dealerships had to abide by the state and local mandates related to Covid restrictions, but they also had to find a way to stay afloat. Virtual reality was safe, convenient and allowed for business to continue. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-27.jpeg] DESIGN, CONVENIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF VR AFTER COVID Ford continued to design models in virtual reality during Covid, dealerships opted for VR tours and showrooms and buyers went online to shop for a new car. But will these trends continue post-pandemic? No one in the industry can predict what will or won’t happen with absolute certainty. However, Ford and other manufacturers utilized virtual reality before the pandemic. This trend will likely continue after the pandemic subsides. While Piaskowski noted that clay will remain necessary in the design phase, the use of VR allows directors a chance to explore new models in a different realm. Virtual reality enables a different three-dimensional view, and while, unlike clay, it isn’t a tangible material, VR does offer another form of exploration. Directors and leadership can step inside a virtual space and point to design flaws or explore different vantage points of a design. Models can be rotated and viewed in a familiar setting. When the world seemingly stopped, VR technology allowed business to continue. Designs that could have been abruptly halted had Covid hit 20 years ago could continue to be explored and revised. Designers could tweak elements, and leadership teams could counsel and discuss options to improve models. Virtual reality also will likely continue to have a firm footing on the automotive shopping experience, too. For the past several months, consumers have shifted to a new way of shopping and making purchases. While online shopping was already a leading force in the retail world, Covid forced many businesses to pivot to this virtual experience. Now consumers find that they can easily visit a dealership online and view different cars remotely. Before Covid, shopping for a car meant visiting a dealership, walking through the lot to inspect different models and then taking a test drive. Sometimes consumers may have felt pressure to make their decision promptly or maybe simply didn’t like the experience of the in-person car buying experience. With the onset of virtual reality for showrooms and test drives, the power shifted more to the consumer. Suddenly, shopping for a car could be relaxed. Looking through the inventory could be a leisurely experience done while having lunch or sitting in bed at night. Test drives could be scheduled online or via an app, and the model for that test drive could be delivered to the consumer. Even financing could be approved online. After Covid, many consumers may continue to shop virtually—even for bigger purchases like an automobile. The ease of clicking a vehicle, changing a paint hue and scheduling a virtual test drive may appeal to those who simply don’t have the time to visit a dealership. However, other consumers may have hesitated to explore the online shopping experience for an automobile. While dealerships moved to online experiences during Covid, some consumers might not have felt comfortable with a virtual experience. For these consumers, there may always be a preference for in-person shopping. The impact of Covid, however, may have forever altered the automotive world and paved the way for further virtual upgrades. The rise of VR may impact other areas of the industry in ways no one can predict. VR has already been utilized for safety tests. In addition, Porsche’s “Tech Live Look” incorporates virtual reality to help technicians with repairs. In the future, the automotive industry may see slick new test drive experiences where consumers can experience new models in a road environment of their choice. In fact, BMW already offered a virtual test drive on Mars! Virtual reality could be used in programs that actually take consumers into the showroom with a virtual salesperson. The future that many are awaiting, though, is the self-driving car—a vehicle powered by virtual reality. No one can accurately predict where the future will drive us, but virtual reality may likely hold the keys and take over the driver’s seat.
Ford Bronco Reservations Surpass 150,000
Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently revealed on an earnings call with investors that the demand for the 2021 Ford Bronco has far exceeded the brand’s expectations. According to Hackett, over 150,000 customers have paid a $100 fee to secure a coveted reservation to order the vehicle. THE HISTORY OF THE FORD BRONCO The Ford Bronco, a two-door sports utility vehicle (SUV) was first introduced in 1965 as a rugged alternative to four-door SUVs already on the market. It was designed with a larger track width and coil spring front suspension, which made it ideal for traveling over a wide range of terrains from the roadside to the mountainside. The original model also featured a short wheelbase and lower turning diameter, which made it easier for drivers to safely turn around in tight spaces. The first Ford Bronco model was an immediate success. But the Bronco became even more popular following the release of the second generation model in 1978. The second generation was designed with many of the same elements that made the vehicle ideal for off-roading. However, the new design also featured a larger platform and body, similar to those found on the Ford F-Series truck. Thus, the second generation model brought together the best of both worlds for consumers who loved the size of the F-Series but the ruggedness and unparalleled capabilities of the Bronco. The design of the third generation Bronco, which was released in 1980, incorporated more luxurious amenities. This model was more fuel efficient and lighter than previous models. It was also designed with an independent front suspension as opposed to a solid front axle, which made riding over bumpy terrain far more comfortable. Despite these changes, the third generation Ford Bronco was still designed for the rugged, outdoor-loving automotive consumer. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-9.jpeg] The Bronco took on a new shape with the release of the fourth generation model in 1987. The fourth generation Bronco featured softer, sculpted edges instead of squared corners and right angles. Ford also made a number of safety upgrades on the fourth generation Bronco, such as the inclusion of a rear anti-locking brake system. Consumers were also given more interior options for the fourth generation. For instance, consumers could choose between a front bench seat or Captain’s chairs. The final Bronco model, the fifth generation, debuted in 1992. The fifth generation model was known for its rugged exterior, yet luxurious and stylish interior. The new model was designed with an upscale sound system, illuminated mirrors, and other high-end features. The stylish look of the fifth generation wasn’t the only improvement—Ford also made several safety improvements to this model. Three-point seat belts were added to the rear seats and an airbag was added to the steering wheel beginning in 1994. By the time the fifth generation was released, the Ford Bronco had been in production for nearly 30 years. But its popularity was slowly declining due to the rise in demand for four-door SUVs. As a result, the Ford Bronco was discontinued in 1996. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-10.jpeg] THE LONG-AWAITED RETURN OF THE FORD BRONCO Ford first announced the return of the Ford Bronco in 2017 at the Detroit Auto Show. The announcement was met with awe and excitement from Ford fans, who have long awaited the return of this iconic vehicle. Now, over three years later, the wait is almost over. Ford finally released more information regarding the release in July of this year. The manufacturer will release three new Broncos for the 2021 production year: the Bronco 2 (a two-door SUV), the Bronco 4 (a four-door SUV), and Bronco Sport. Both the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 will be manufactured in Michigan, whereas the Bronco Sport will be manufactured in Mexico. The Bronco 4 starts at $34,695, making it the most expensive of the three new models. Next is the Bronco 2, which has a base price of $29,995, followed by the Bronco Sport, which starts at $28,155. The designs of all three of the vehicles are supposed to remind consumers of the past while also driving them forward toward the future. The three 2021 models are all just as rugged as the original Broncos, with wide frames and distinct edges. But the 2021 models feature a number of different customization options that were not available for earlier generations. There are seven different versions of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4, with 11 paint options and four content packages. The higher end versions, which are known as the Wildtrak and Badlands, are for consumers who plan on spending most of their time behind the wheel off-roading. Both the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 are designed with removable roof panels and doors to give consumers more flexibility. Additionally, the models are available in both soft and hardtops. Ford is also planning on releasing hundreds of new accessories to make it even easier for consumers to customize their 2021 Bronco. These sporty accessories are designed to help consumers carry their kayaks, skis, and other gear with ease on their next adventure. Unlike previous generations of the Bronco, innovative technology is also incorporated into the designs of the 2021 models. For instance, drivers who are off-roading can choose between seven different “driving modes,” which include normal, eco, sport, slippery and sand, baja, mud and ruts, and rock crawl. Allowing drivers to select their driving mode gives them yet another opportunity to customize their Bronco experience. The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 are also designed with the Ford SYNC 4 infotainment system. This unique system features an 8- or 12-inch display screen, voice control, GPS, and camera that allows drivers to see all the way around the vehicle without turning their head. Using the infotainment system, consumers can also access thousands of trail maps that they can use while exploring the great outdoors. RESERVATIONS FOR THE NEW FORD BRONCO The Bronco Sport will reportedly be available for sale at dealerships around the country by the end of this year, whereas the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 will not be available until spring of 2021. But in the meantime, consumers who are counting down the days until the Bronco hits the market can pay a small fee to ensure they don’t miss out on the opportunity to purchase this iconic vehicle. In July, Ford outlined its plan to allow customers to reserve a spot to order one of the new Bronco models. By paying a $100 fee, customers could land one of the spots on this short list. So far, over 150,000 reservations have been made for the Bronco 2, Bronco 4 and Bronco Sport. Furthermore, Ford unveiled a limited First Edition model of the Bronco with a starting price of $60,800, more than twice the base price of the Bronco 2 and Bronco Sport. Despite this high price, all 7,000 of the limited number of these First Edition models have been reserved by consumers who are celebrating the return of the Bronco. Ford has not revealed how many reservations they expected, but CFO Tim Stone has admitted that the number of reservations made so far has exceeded their initial expectations. Ford’s President of the Americas & International Market Group, Kumar Galhotra, has also said that the company hopes to sell hundreds of thousands of Broncos per year once the vehicle officially hits the market. If the company is able to sell approximately 125,000 units per year, it could add about $1 billion to Ford’s annual pre-tax earnings, making it one of the manufacturer’s most profitable models. Of course, these 150,000 reservations are not actual orders, just reservations. As a result, there’s no guarantee that every customer who paid the fee to secure a spot on the list will follow through with an order. Now, it’s up to Ford to determine how many of these reservations will actually turn into orders. But for the time being, the brand could not be more pleased with the initial demand for the 2021 Bronco. THE REPOSITIONING OF FORD In 2018, Ford announced that it would retire the Fiesta, Taurus, Fusion, and all other passenger car models besides the Mustang and Ford Focus Active. According to Ford, this would allow the company to focus solely on manufacturing trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. The decision to relaunch the Bronco is in line with this goal to shift their business exclusively to this segment of the automotive industry. Experts believe that the 2021 Bronco will allow Ford to compete directly with Jeep, specifically with the Jeep Wrangler, which has not had a direct competitor since 2009, when the Hummer was officially discontinued. However, Ford is not the only automotive manufacturer that is planning on stealing a chunk of the Jeep Wrangler’s market share. General Motors recently released a video that teased the return of the Hummer. But unlike the previous models, the new Hummer appears to be an electric vehicle rather than a fuel-powered vehicle. The Hummer is another iconic vehicle, so the return of this model could give Ford a run for its money.
Ford Launches Driveway Dealership AR Experience for 2021 F-150 Buyers
There’s no doubt that the global coronavirus pandemic has made visiting auto dealerships in person more difficult. But even before the pandemic, consumers showed a preference for shopping for cars online rather than in person. In fact, one survey revealed that 53% of consumers would be extremely or very likely to buy a car online if given the opportunity. In response to this shift in demand—and the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis—Ford recently launched a new program for F-150 consumers called “Driveway Dealership.” WHAT IS THE DRIVEWAY DEALERSHIP PROGRAM? The Driveway Dealership Program is an augmented reality (AR) experience that gives people who are interested in the Ford F-150 truck an opportunity to virtually explore the vehicle without ever stepping foot in a dealership. HOW DOES THE DRIVEWAY DEALERSHIP PROGRAM WORK? You won’t need to wait for an invitation or sign up for the Driveway Dealership program in order to participate in this AR experience. Instead, simply visit the Ford Driveway Dealership website and look for the QR code. Use your phone to scan this QR code to start your AR experience at home. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-6.jpeg] After scanning the QR code, you can use your phone to project a virtual 2021 Ford F-150 anywhere you would like. Most consumers are using this tool to project a virtual image of the Ford F-150 in their driveway so they can see what the vehicle would look like parked in front of their home. However, other consumers are having more fun with this tool. The projected image of the vehicle can be resized, so many people are using the tool to project small, toy-sized images of the F-150 in unusual locations, such as pools, porches, and dining room tables. INTERIOR VIEWS The exterior isn’t the only part of the truck that consumers can explore as part of the Driveway Dealership program. On the Ford Driveway Dealership website, consumers also have the option of exploring the interior of the 2021 F-150. Using this tool, consumers can see what the view from behind the wheel of the truck would look like. They can also zoom in and out to examine various interior features, such as the new 8-inch horizontal touchscreen, which replaces the 4.2-inch touchscreen found on previous models of the F-150. These upgraded touchscreens are equipped with the Ford Sync 4 Infotainment System, which is designed with faster processing times, a more user-friendly interface, and access to a greater number of apps than previous releases. Together, the AR experience and the interior images found online allow consumers who are interested in the F-150 to analyze every inch of the newest model from the comfort of their own home. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-7.jpeg] WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE DRIVEWAY DEALERSHIP PROGRAM? The 2021 Ford F-150 will be available for purchase at dealerships across the country this fall, but the Driveway Dealership program gives consumers a chance to explore the vehicle before its official rollout. As a result, this program has created a lot of buzz and excitement around the newest model of this iconic truck. The AR program has also made the process of researching the vehicle much easier on people who are unable or unwilling to visit a dealership in person. These consumers don’t have to wait until the coronavirus crisis has passed or they have more time in their schedule to visit a dealership. Thanks to this tool, consumers can make the purchase decision entirely from home. Consumers who want to purchase the vehicle can either visit a dealership or use Ford’s online buying tool to complete the transaction. With the latter option, the entire process of researching and purchasing a 2021 Ford F-150 can be completed from home. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-8.jpeg] WHAT CONSUMERS CAN EXPECT WITH THE 2021 FORD F-150 The 2021 F-150 was revealed in June and marketed as “an all-new truck” for the automotive manufacturer. From the outside, the 2021 model looks like a slightly updated version of the 2020 model. The newest model is designed with higher front fenders and a track that is somewhat wider than the 2020 model. These minor adjustments give the 2021 F-150 a more masculine and rugged appearance. The newest model can be equipped with six powertrain options, including a new hybrid 3.5-liter EcoBoost powertrain, which was not available on the 2020 model. According to Ford, the 2021 F-150 is also 3% more aerodynamic than the 2020 model due to the active grill shutters, which automatically close when the truck is traveling at a cruising speed. Several design elements make it obvious that Ford recognizes that many consumers use their F-150 for work purposes. For example, consumers have the option of folding down a top over their center console to create a flat and sturdy work surface inside their truck. This flat top can be used as a writing surface or laptop stand, depending on the nature of the job. There’s another work surface found in the tailgate of the vehicle. But this work surface also features rules, a place to store a smartphone, a pencil holder, and a cup holder. The tailgate of the 2021 F-150 is also designed with zone lighting to illuminate this part of the truck. This feature is ideal for people who need more visibility while working past sunset. There are a number of subtle design details that fans of the F-150 will fawn over, including the American flag that is etched into the dashboard. This etching honors the fact that the F-150 is built here in the United States at either Ford’s Michigan or Missouri plant. The base model of the 2021 Ford F-150 will begin around $30,000. The Limited F-150, which is the most high-end model, is expected to start around $70,000. Consumers can explore all of these new and exciting changes using the Driveway Dealership AR program. Unfortunately, the Driveway Dealership AR program is only available for the 2021 F-150. But it’s safe to say that if it is a success, Ford may consider adding other models to the program in the future.
Get behind the wheel of your dream car without going to the dealership
Let’s face it – the thought of going to the dealership can be enough to dissuade you from looking at that shiny new car you’ve been eyeing. The car-buying process is traditionally overwhelming and unpleasant, with long hours and negotiations with tough salespeople on the show floor. The process is anything but ideal, and can be especially daunting to those who have never done it before. As time goes on, the in-dealership experience continues to be a point of contention for many car shoppers. According to a 2019 Cox Automotive study, when asked to compare their most recent buying experience to previous ones, 61% of car buyers said their experience was not any better – and in some cases, worse – than the last time they bought a car. This information shows that the process is not getting any better and has remained largely unchanged – until now. The Future of Car Showrooms What if you could get behind the wheel of your next dream car without ever leaving the couch? Naturally, you’ve already Googled the car, read some reviews, and viewed various images of the vehicle. This online process is about to get way more immersive, way more convenient, and honestly – way cooler. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR ) are now allowing us to step into vehicles and view entire specifications and features in a complete realistic way, all from the comfort of home and through everyday devices like our smartphones and tablets. Wondering what the interior of that new Porsche or Tesla looks like? With a virtual reality car showroom and a high-quality VR library, a potential car can be viewed and even customized within seconds. This technology can allow for views of VR car interiors, exterior spins of the vehicle, detailed features, and even the ability to compare vehicles side by side and change the paint colors of cars. The car can be viewed at all angles, as well as directly from the driver’s seat, and the options are endless. For example, the RelayCars® car VR app is powered by the most expansive and high-quality VR library on the market. With this research process, it’s much easier to walk into the dealership more informed and confident in choosing a vehicle. Not only that, but you will cut down on the time spent at the dealership, already knowing where each feature and button is located in your new car. Additionally, with online shopping and at-home delivery more common than ever, these virtual and augmented reality car showrooms can also include a ‘buy now’ feature that helps consumers to make a direct purchase to avoid the dealership entirely. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ManequinVR_for_Bannersite_SIZE_TEST_4.png] Experience a Virtual Car Showroom, Anytime, Anywhere While corresponding, VR headsets such as the Oculus Go are still continuing to become more mainstream, users can simply get right into the driver’s seats of potential vehicles by using a “Magic Window” application to view the technology straight from a mobile device or tablet. With no headset required, this process is accessible and easy to use. Wondering what your new car will look like in your driveway or garage? Using AR technology, users can also place cars physically into real-world environments and feel like they are even walking around the perimeter of the car. As this technology evolves, some platforms may also begin to include ‘test drive’ options in realistic settings. According to Cox Automotive, 83% of consumers want to do one or more steps of the purchase process online and 7 out of 10 are more likely to buy from a dealership if they could start the process online. And, of course, this modern car shopping experience isn’t limited to just the home. Set locations, such as mall kiosks or specific help centers in stores, can acquire headsets and help guide consumers through the research process. When conducted by a dealership, the process can be started in these more casual environments and help to alleviate the anxiety and surrounding the physical car showroom. Summarizing the Key Benefits Ultimately, avoiding the dealership entirely sounds perfect, but that’s only just one major benefit to utilizing AR and VR technology to shop for your next car. Many car enthusiasts and everyday shoppers may eventually still choose to visit a physical showroom to sit in the car and drive it as the final step before purchase. However, when it comes down to it, this new research process shows it is quickly becoming the go-to option, with key advantages including: ● Accessibility – Once again, shoppers should not feel deterred by the fact that they don’t own a compatible AR or VR headset. Our standard devices are becoming more and more powerful and are able to display this advanced technology with no problem, right from home as well as on-the-go. As more and more locations adapt to this process, don’t be surprised if you begin seeing actual dealerships implementing onsite headsets and AR/VR experiences to help to finalize sales and save physical, inventory space on the lot. ● Brand Loyalty – Many shoppers have been buying the same model car for years, and will always choose to continue such brand loyalty each time they are ready for a new vehicle. Oftentimes, these buyers do not need to be sold on various models, and just want to see what is new and improved in the latest model of their already existing car. Perhaps the consumer wants the exact same car, but only wants to see what it would look like in a different color interior or exterior. Having the ability to view these latest models from home, in a realistic way, is the perfect scenario for brand loyalists. They are able to quickly view exactly what they will be getting and then go straight to their usual dealership to pick it up. ● Ease of Use – You don’t have to be the most tech-savvy person to get behind and utilize this trend. Just like using a typical phone app, cars can be viewed and customized with the simple swipe of a finger on a screen. ● Pacing Your Research – No one likes to feel rushed when deciding on a vehicle onsite at the dealership. Choosing a new car is a huge commitment and it’s important to take your time in order to make the right decision. With access to this technology from home, users may research as often as they want to, and for as long as they want to. ● Sharing the Decision-Making Process – Curious what your family or friends think about the car you’ve been eyeing? Don’t have time to bring them all to the dealership at the same time? This convenient process allows for users to easily involve others in decision-making, and set aside time at home to research and discuss together. ● Time and Convenience – Car buyers are spending less time shopping and fewer days in market, meaning they are making decisions more quickly. They are also visiting fewer dealerships, while the number of car buyers visiting only one dealership has increased significantly to 41% (up from 30% two years ago). Using an at-home, AR and VR research tool, shoppers are guaranteed to only have to visit one dealership, as they are more than likely to know ahead of time what they are going to purchase. ● Quality Information and Imagery – To reiterate, these vehicle views and panoramas are so much more than your standard, basic image. Having access to every angle of a car, inside and outside, is extremely valuable. Users will be surprised to see just how realistic, high-quality, and immersive this research process really is. ● Quick Comparisons and Customizations – Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the true difference between similar models within the same car brand. Using this technology to view vehicles directly side-by-side creates an invaluable way to compare and contrast physical and technological features across cars. ● Vast Selection – On the contrary, have you ever been deciding between two, different car brands and don’t have the time to visit two separate dealerships? With access to huge automotive, VR libraries, shoppers are not limited to a single manufacturer. They can easily research and compare vehicles within minutes and the simple click of a button. In a time when potential car shoppers are busier than ever, and services everywhere are becoming more convenient, automotive VR and AR technology is slated to transform the way we educate ourselves on vehicle choices. With this new wave of research options, your dream car is closer than you think. The potential of virtual reality car shopping is vast, whether a car shopper is exploring the latest models in their living room or being guided through a virtual tour of a vehicle’s features in the car showroom. However, to fully harness the possibilities of virtual reality car shopping, it is essential to choose the best applications and assets to build flexible, functional virtual showrooms. By partnering with pioneers in automotive VR technology, such as RelayCars® and Evox Images, dealers can ensure they have the resources they need to create compelling VR experiences. RelayCars® offers a truly immersive virtual automotive showroom experience. With unrivaled image quality and vehicle selection, RelayCars® is an indispensable tool for car shoppers and enthusiasts alike making it the next evolution for car research shopping. Contact our team or call us at 310-605-1400 to learn more about our innovative imaging solutions.
HOW VR AND AR ARE CHANGING THE CAR-BUYING EXPERIENCE
The car-buying experience is almost universally loathed. In-person negotiations are a hassle, and spending the day going from dealership to dealership to test drive cars is an experience that most consumers want to avoid at all costs. Those hassles are one of the reasons why it takes consumers an average of six months of research before settling on which car to buy. In a survey conducted by AutoTrader, just 17 out of the 4,002 consumers polled said they were satisfied with the current car-buying process. Dealers aren’t happy with the situation, either. Getting people into auto dealerships is becoming increasingly difficult, and millennial customers, in particular, are resisting taking part in traditional dealer/customer negotiations. Although research shows that baby boomers prefer to touch and feel vehicles, and they will go to multiple dealerships to look at cars, that’s not necessarily the case with younger buyers. Millennial shoppers are doing most of their car buying research online, using popular platforms like Google and YouTube. The problem is that new cars are incredibly expensive, and most people don’t feel comfortable picking a vehicle based exclusively on two-dimensional images and whatever data they can pull up on the Kelley Blue Book website. Consumers don’t want to go into dealerships, either, so they end up delaying their purchases for as long as possible. RelayCars thinks it has a solution. The company has put together a program that uses augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to help consumers research new cars and trucks. Getting a realistic view of a vehicle from their own homes helps users narrow down their selections and decreases the time shoppers need to spend test driving multiple cars. RelayCars’ app is powered by EVOX Images. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because EVOX Images isn’t a newcomer in the automotive space. The company has been working in automotive photography, by capturing HD car images for commercial use, for two decades. Its images are used on more than 20,000 dealership websites, which means most people who’ve shopped for a car have seen an image from EVOX. Using EVOX’s VR automotive asset library, RelayCars gives its users a way to place themselves into the driver’s seat of almost any vehicle. The company’s app is platform agnostic, and consumers who don’t have VR headsets can still get the full experience by downloading the app on iOS or Android. Although RelayCars is now used primarily by consumers, Chief Operating Officer Gina Callari says the app was originally designed for EVOX’s enterprise customers. “Once we put RelayCars on the app store for general consumers, we pulled in over 1.2 million downloads,” says Callari. Part of the magic behind RelayCars is its standardization of imagery. The company has a 40,000 square foot space where it shoots its vehicle, all with the same consistent lighting and angles. This means consumers are really able to understand and compare different cars. Although RelayCars is available in both VR and AR, Callari says there has been slower mainstream adoption for headsets, outside of the gaming industry, and because of that, growth has been slower for in app’s VR version. Callari says RelayCars is currently the only automotive app developed for Magic Leap, and the company is continuing to develop for headsets to stay ahead of the curve. On the dealer side, the biggest barrier to adoption for RelayCars has been a lack of actual inventory on dealer lots. A consumer might look through a headset and see different vehicle options and colors than what the local dealership has available to buy that day, and that can sometimes be a problem. In order for RelayCars to continue to expand and grow, the company will need to form more partnerships within the automotive industry. EVOX already provides images to more than 20,000 dealerships, and the company works closely with manufacturers like Kia and Subaru, but Callari says even more partnerships are in the works. “The entire car shopping experience is changing and is already much different than even five years ago … By 2020, millennials will be the largest car buyer demographic, which is why it’s so important that dealers understand their shopping and buying habits,” she says. “Our goal as a company is for RelayCars to become an integral step in the car research process. When someone is looking for a vehicle, and thinking of ways to research that vehicle, we hope they’ll go to sites like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com for data and editorial, to YouTube for videos, and to RelayCars for the VR/AR visual aspects.” Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight. SOURCE: https://streetfightmag.com/2019/08/30/how-vr-and-ar-are-changing-the-car-buying-experience/