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How Ford Camouflages Its New Vehicles

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Ford Fusion near a camouflaged model

Ford, like most other automakers, has a particular affinity for testing its mules and prototypes on public roads around the country. In order to do so, these naturally conspicuous vehicles must manage to be simultaneously inconspicuous in so far that they are able to avoid giving away too many details about design directions for its refreshes and reboots.

Enter Ford’s method for camouflaging its test vehicles: vinyl stickers displaying eye-confusing designs that help cover up body lines and exterior characteristics by ostensibly creating optical illusions. These stickers are necessary not only to fend off spy photographers working for various publications, but also to prevent the competition from undercutting its products. In that sense, they are far more effective than simple black vinyl.

“The work we’re doing is crucial to Ford staying competitive in a constantly evolving industry,” said John LaQue, Ford section supervisor, Prototype Planning and Build. “When we make it to a reveal without a photo surfacing of a non-camouflaged car, we have all done our jobs.”

WATCH: The Science of Subterfuge – How Ford Uses Modern Camouflage to Hide in Plain Sight

Vehicles are camouflaged in numerous ways across the various stages of its development, including not just the use of vinyl stickers, but also the use of faux body panels to alter the profile of a vehicle altogether. When Ford was testing the current-generation Ford F-150, it did so by utilizing a body shell that gave the trucks the appearance of being previous-gen models. The result was thousands of miles of testing done in plain sight without a single driver being any bit the wiser.

Ford Fusion Camouflage

“While design is the fourth most important reason for purchase in the industry overall, it’s number two only behind fuel economy for Ford,” said Dave Fish, senior vice president, Expert Services at MaritzCX, which conducts the New Vehicle Customer Study. “It’s not surprising Ford goes to extraordinary lengths to try to keep the wraps on its designs as long as possible.”