Ford turned to consumers for 2008 Focus styling

In an effort to help the all-new 2008 Ford Focus better compete in an ever-expanding segment, Ford asked consumers to help mold the car's styling, a new report finds. After showing the new Focus at January's Detroit Auto Show, Ford asked consumers to give feedback on the interior and exterior styling of the all-new car and incorporated the suggestion into the final design.

Such an effort is a rarity for Ford, but executives knew they needed an edge to compete with rivals within the class. "It's highly unusual," said Beth Donovan, Ford's product marketing manager for small and medium cars. "But we feel like we've got to stay ahead, ... and you want to make sure you can keep it competitive."

Some of the changes adopted from the suggestions included covering the lower grill with mesh, rounded fog lights instead of the show car's square ones, chrome-finished interior door handles, a satin finish replacing the interior's bright aluminum finish and contrasting stitching on leather seats.

Ford declined to comment on the costs of the changes but insisted proper craftsmanship is the top priority. "When it comes to customer feedback, we're always looking at "Can we deliver it with quality?' " Donovan said. "If there are costs associated with that, certainly we're mindful of that. But you don't want to miss a sale."

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