Two signature Ford products – the Ford Flex and the all-new Ford Fusion Hybrid – are winners in the 2009 Ward's Interior of the Year competition, an annual contest that heralds vehicles for their interior styling, comfort, safety and value.

The 2009 Flex captured best interior in the Premium-priced Truck category and the 2010 Fusion Hybrid received a special-achievement award for Best Graphic Display.

This year's honors compliment an already impressive list of past Interior of the Year winners for Ford, including last year's Ford Focus and Escape, and Lincoln Navigator and MKZ the year before.

"The interior is a major product differentiator, it's where the emotional connection to a vehicle takes place; where the customer can see and feel the quality of the vehicle," said Moray Callum, soon-to-be executive director of design for Ford Americas. "The interiors of the Flex and Fusion Hybrid live up to Ford's commitment to offer intuitive design, thoughtful amenities and unmatched comfort."

Overall, 11 winners were given bragging rights in this year's Interior of the Year competition. Ward's editors evaluated 35 different 2009 and 2010 model-year vehicles that had either all-new or significantly upgraded interiors. Contestants were divided into six car and truck segments based on price. In addition, special-achievement honorees in categories such as Design Harmony, Grooviest Interior and Best Graphic Display, were selected.

Ford Flex The Ford Flex wowed Ward's editors with its flexible six-passenger seating configuration and high-quality interior craftsmanship. Flex features second-row best-in-class legroom, class-exclusive adjustable and removable footrests and an available one-touch system that folds and tumbles the second row.

"What impressed us most about the Flex are the ergonomics and the design team's laser focus on comfort," said Tom Murphy, executive editor of Ward's AutoWorld magazine. "The third-row seats are just about as comfortable as the first- and second-row seats, and you can't say that about many vehicles. The power folding function to allow easy access to the third row is a stroke of genius."

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According to Ford Chief Interior Designer Anthony Prozzi, the Flex's interior provides a level of craftsmanship inspired by fashion and furniture design, with modern materials and soft touch points. "We wanted the interior to be a place of contemporary, relaxed style – somewhere you could feel very comfortable, yet involved and connected," said Prozzi. "Flex's interior shows how Ford is raising the bar in every area – quality, interesting design, technology and exciting color and materials."

Fusion Hybrid The SmartGauge with EcoGuide digital instrument cluster on the Fusion Hybrid more than impressed the competition's judges, garnering the vehicle with the special-achievement award for Best Graphic Display.

SmartGauge is designed to coach Ford hybrid owners to maximize fuel efficiency. High-resolution, full-color LCD screens can be configured by the driver to show different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels, as well as average and instant miles-per-gallon. "SmartGauge with EcoGuide gives the customer real-world feedback to make the most of their hybrids," said Gil Portalatin, Hybrid Applications Manager. "Unique to Ford and Mercury hybrid sedans, this instrument cluster acts as a good ‘coach,' engaging drivers real-time to help them achieve maximum fuel economy."

Ward's editors expressed their marvel at the amount of information Ford engineers managed to package in a way that is simple to understand. "The Fusion Hybrid does a number of things well," said Murphy, "but the instrument cluster in particular proves that vital information about vehicle performance can be communicated effectively. The driver can quickly grasp what is important, while still looking straight ahead."

Ford, along with the other 2009 Interior of the Year award winners, will be honored in May at the Ward's Auto Interiors Conference in Dearborn.

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