The dog that helped design a car

January 31, 2019

For many people, dogs are a part of the family. But whereas most people wouldn’t dream of allowing their children to travel unrestrained, the same is not true for their pets.

We commissioned a survey that shows 32 per cent of dog-owning drivers across Europe admit to not securing their pets safely in the car. To do so is a legal requirement in many countries, and it is recognised that this is not only safer for the animals but also for drivers, passengers and other road users.

Work on our new Focus wagon was a labour of love for engineer Rene Berns, who looked to his three-year old Australian Shepherd dog Emil for inspiration when designing a car that enabled dogs to travel more safely.

During testing, Rene enlisted Emil’s help to ensure the biggest possible crate could be accommodated in the Focus wagon boot space. As a result, the vehicle can comfortably carry even an Irish Wolfhound, the world’s tallest breed of dog.

“If you have a pet, please think of its safety in the same way you would about any other member of the family,” said dog training expert, Graeme Hall, aka “The Dogfather”. “I always carry my dog Lily in the boot in her crate. She can comfortably move around and everyone’s safe. I believe that’s the best solution.”

Of those dog owners surveyed who said they did not always secure their pets, 32 per cent said it was because the animals did not like it, 31 per cent claimed there was no need when undertaking short journeys, and 14 per cent said they did not have room for a dog crate.

More than 1 in 4 of those who carried their dog unsecured admitted that their pet had poked its head out of the window (26 per cent). Some said pets had previously jumped out of the window resulting, on occasion, in the pet being killed or injured. Owners also admitted being involved in accidents after being distracted by their pets, that dogs had turned on indicators, obscured the view ahead and bitten occupants.

Insurance claims can be invalidated if pets are not safely restrained in the vehicle and it has been estimated that if a car crashes at a speed of 25 mph, an unrestrained dog can develop projection forces that are 40 times its weight.

Together with his team, based in Cologne, Germany, Rene helped to maximise boot space in the Focus wagon by compressing the foam layer of the roof liner, altering the length of the hinge screws and reshaping the boot opening.

“I know how much it means to me to be able to take Emil with me wherever I am going, and I’m proud that he has helped make that easier for other dog owners and their pets to travel safely and in comfort,” said Berns.

The new Focus wagon is on sale across Europe in a comprehensive line-up that includes the stylish Focus Trend and Titanium, sporty Focus ST-Line, upscale Focus Vignale, and the first sports-utility vehicle-inspired Focus Active crossover.

Topics: Focus
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