What with having to do testing on public roads, carmakers don't have the luxury of keeping their products hidden until launch like other manufacturers. Instead, they try to camouflage their prototypes as best they can. Ford has revealed some of the newer methods it is using to do so.
There are a number of reasons that companies like Ford try to keep their designs under wraps, not least to protect the value of their launches and to keep their intellectual property hidden from competitors. As it points out, though, doing so is becoming increasingly difficult due to the proliferation of cameras and video cameras on phones, plus people having instant access to the internet to post photos.
"The work we're doing is crucial to Ford staying competitive in a constantly evolving industry," says section supervisor of the company's Prototype Planning and Build department John LaQue. "When we make it to a reveal without a photo surfacing of a non-camouflaged car, we have all done our jobs."
Historically, Ford says black vinyl cladding was the only way for it to hide a vehicle, but that this was difficult to apply. Now, it is able to print patterned vinyl stickers that can be applied to bodywork easily and that use optical illusions to trick the eye and obscure vehicle details and contours.
The stickers are universal and can be used on any vehicle without having to be applied in any particular order. They are also said to be more durable and lighter than the old vinyl cladding, the latter or which means they have less impact on vehicle performance.
Elsewhere, black vinyl wrap with velcro or zipper closures is used to cover up parts of cars that still need to be opened and closed, and faux body panels are even used to change the shape of a car. By adding length or height to a vehicle in this way, its true dimensions can be kept better hidden until such time as it is launched.
The video below provides an insight into some of the techniques used by Ford.