Ford on camouflaging prototypes: Hiding in plain sight?

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida Headshot
2017 F-Series Super Duty2017 F-Series Super Duty

It’s hard to miss a camo-wrapped prototype truck or van in traffic.

OEMs typically use black and white checker patterns to hide their latest vehicle innovations, but interestingly enough, the loud vinyl wraps and other coverings just seem to generate more photos, videos and news.

That has to be a good thing from a marketing standpoint. Or is it?

Hard Working Trucks talked to Ford about prototype camouflaging. Recent video and photos of a prototype F-150 made big news when it was pointed out that the truck appeared to have a diesel exhaust pipe.

It was also easy to hear a diesel-like growl during the video.

Not long after, another story made waves when it was noted that an emissions calibration sticker could be seen in a picture of a camo-wrapped F-150 which the writer thought could be hinting at a diesel engine. Interesting stuff, for sure.

While Ford, like other OEMs, will generally not comment publicly about its new prototypes, they were willing to answer a few questions about camouflaging. Special thanks to Sam Schembari, product communications representative at Ford, for answering our questions.

HWT: In this camera-centric age, is there ever a concern that a camo-wrapped prototype will attract too many prying eyes that could jeopardize an OEM’s latest advancements?

Schembari: Not necessarily. Every product is different. With the camera technology today, camouflage designs are constantly evolving from the heavier, bag-like coverings traditionally used. Newer camouflage is designed in a way so the camera is unable to easily focus on the vehicle. There are also other ways we are able to disguise the body panels hidden below the camouflage.

HWT: To avoid being noticed so much, is it sometimes best to just drive a prototype around in traffic without the camo wrap?

Schembari: It’s company policy to camouflage vehicles, especially prototypes and early production units. Spy photographers literally “camp out” waiting for new vehicles to leave the pilot plant, even camouflaged vehicles. Ford Motor Company tests new technology several years in advance and this needs to be hidden from the general public until the product program is ready to publicly communicate. Without camouflage, new vehicles, technologies or design themes would end up in print or online within minutes of leaving the pilot plant – potentially effecting sales of current Ford vehicles in the marketplace and providing competitors an insight to our future strategies.

HWT: How much time and effort goes into hiding a vehicle?

Schembari: The camouflage plan is developed over several months with input from several groups.

Schembari would not comment on whether prototype news actually helps marketing efforts or not. However, in his answer above, he does point out that the sales of current Ford vehicles may be impacted by too much news on their latest innovations. That, and their competitors would find out too much, too soon. Still, I can’t help but think that if I had a checkered present under the tree, I’d want to open it first and fast.