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Building the brand identity of Brazil's home-grown off-roader

Mon, 18 Aug 2014

Ford's South American design studio in Camaçari, Brazil, has already completed two 'One Ford' global projects, the EcoSport crossover, and the Ka compact. But the replacement for the Troller T4, a basic 4x4 solely for the Brazilian market, has presented a different challenge to the design team led by Joao Marcos Ramos.

In 1994, Troller began building tough rally-raid 4x4s for local motor sport events. A road-going version, the T4, went on sale in 1997. A decade later, the success of the vehicle and local attachment to the brand led Ford of Brazil to purchase the company.

After the acquisition, the Troller factory was upgraded, while the existing T4 was reengineered to accept Ford-sourced parts. But the real influence of its new owners is only just becoming obvious, with the first Ford-designed model being launched.

Since 2007, Ford of Brazil's design team has been developing the brand identity of Troller. It wasn't until the 2012 Sao Paulo motor show, when the TR-X concept was shown, that we got an idea of the evolutionary nature of the design that had been adopted.

As with the Ka, the design team was mindful of the fact that Brazilian car buyers are currently fairly conservative, so the new T4, unveiled alongside the new Ka in Sao Paulo, doesn't stray too far from the original.

However, the exterior body panels are all made of plastic, allowing some graphic development, albeit made sensitively to match the expectations of Brazilian buyers.

The original Troller's design was heavily inspired by the Jeep Wrangler and the Willy's Jeep, which Ford sold in Brazil until the 1980s. When searching for an updated Troller identity, the designers started from the brand logo, extrapolating it into a couple of design features. The 'T' shape makes up the honeycomb of the grille and, more significantly, the shape of the DRG. This is highlighted by the contrasting ‘London grey' plastic, which also features on the roof and rocker to help give smoother visuals than before. The color also appears on the tailgate.

The conservative approach is adopted inside, too. Although the interior now presents the comforts and equipment of a road car, the designers have kept hard-wearing materials in the floor finish, just as a proper trail vehicle should. However, while the door cards reference the two-tone colorway of the exterior, the design of the dashboard isn't as well connected. More significantly, it lacks the impression of solidity expected on this kind of vehicle.

Like the Ford Ka launched at the same time, the T4's design is another example of Ford's low-risk approach to design in Brazil. It's one that references traditional European and North American aesthetics, but in a particularly conservative way, respecting the fact that Brazil's relatively immature car market isn't yet ready to accept more audacious designs.

But while that's the case today, we'll be keeping our eye on Ford's presence in the market and the work of its design team. Surely it's only a matter of time before the flamboyance that Brazil is internationally renowned for makes its way from the carnival and soccer pitches to the nation's roads.

Related article:
How South America designed the Ford Ka

By Artur Grisanti Mausbach