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Family-Proofing Ford Cars Requires Sherlock Holmes-Like Detection Skills

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2015 Ford C-MAX lab testing

Working in Ford’s R&D department in Europe must be particularly enjoyable for fans of Benedict Cumberbatch’s curly-haired sociopath, as measures taken to family-proof the automaker’s cars has torture-testers feeling a bit like a certain detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

“Sometimes you have to be a bit like Sherlock Holmes, playing the detective to understand exactly how damage has occurred and how it can be avoided or reduced,” said Robert Luetzeler, Ford materials engineering manager, in Cologne, Germany. “To be effective, testing has to continually evolve to reflect changing trends in customer use, as well as new technologies.”

Ford tests its vehicles to ensure that they are able to stand up to the kinds of things a vehicle might endure when occupied by children or frazzled adults, including coffee and soda being spilled onto the carpet over and over, and white-hot hair straighteners being laid on the vehicle’s floor to test flame resistance.

“Many of us in the Ford materials lab are parents, so we’re fully aware that kids often deliver the toughest examination of our vehicle interiors,” said Mark Montgomery, Ford senior materials engineer in Dunton. “Whether scuffing door trims with shoes, snagging seats with Velcro school bags or chucking muddy boots onto the carpet after football, it’s our job to replicate everything kids throw at Ford interiors to ensure they can withstand it all.”

Other tests include scratching vehicle surfaces with a mace up to 600 times, rubbing fabrics non-stop for 17 hours, and bouncing a heavy rubber ball against plastic surfaces in temperatures as low as negative 30 degrees Celsius.

Sounds like the best job ever.