DETROIT, MI – Cars or trucks in black-and-white, psychedelic-looking designs can sometimes be spotted cruising public roadways, especially in Metro Detroit.
If you’re not an automotive enthusiast, you may have wondered what the deal is with these hypnotic vehicles. It’s more than likely you’re looking at an automaker’s camouflaged, pre-production car or truck.
The camouflage is usually a series of stickers, with patterns that are designed to trick the eye and hide the body lines of a vehicle in photographs.
There are numerous reasons automakers do not want their wares spied on before they’re ready for release, but it mainly boils down to competition.
Ford Motor Co. posted a video Thursday that offers a glimpse into its camouflaging process:
“The work we’re doing is crucial to Ford staying competitive in a constantly evolving industry,” John LaQue, Ford section supervisor for prototype planning and build, said in a release. “When we make it to a reveal without a photo surfacing of a non-camouflaged car, we have all done our jobs.”
Ford says the trippy stickers are far more effective than their predecessor, which was large black vinyl cladding. That, too, can still be spotted on area roadways.
The black cladding is heavier, so it makes vehicle testing less accurate, Ford says. Now it’s used only sparingly, along with Velcro so that vehicle testers can access a car or truck’s engine, for example.
In addition to the camouflage stickers, Ford’s team also changes the shape of vehicles with faux body panels that can add length or height, further throwing off potential spy photographers.
“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.”